Protoplanet detected using Atacama Telescope Array!

Atacama Large millimeter-submillimeter Array. Image credit: NRAO

Atacama Large millimeter-submillimeter Array. Image credit: NRAO

Hello, Earthlings!

Welcome back to another segment of Universe Playpen!

Protoplanets, or newborn, still-developing planets within a hot, dusty accretion disk around active, young stars, are still a fairly new branch in the astronomy realm. Understanding how different planets form, and the dynamics of accretion disks around such stars, is still an ongoing investigation.

A new study led by Dr. Pinte of the Monash Centre for Astrophysics and School of Physics and Astronomy in Victoria, Australia has detected mysterious gaps around a young star HD 97048 using the Atacama Large Millimeter-submillimeter Array. Other clues to the presence of protoplanets are substructures that are not usually present in accretion disks, such as rings, spirals, heavier clumping of dust concentrations, and shadows from misaligned disks!

Dr. Pinte et al. reports the detection of a protoplanet just a few masses larger than Jupiter and located in a gap at 130 AU from its host star (keep in mind that the distance from Pluto from our Sun is about 40 AU away!) Some other clues that led to the detection about the dynamics of this protoplanet is the detection of carbon monoxide gas lines being observed (and disturbed) at that same distance!

Investigations into planetary formation and planet-accretion disk dynamics are still ongoing, and with the advancement of future telescopic/spectroscopic techniques, we may enhance our understanding of how planets are made (maybe even differently!) in other extrasolar systems!

Thanks for reading and come back next week for a look at why Triton needs a mission!

Caitlin Ahrens