The astronomical community observed for the first time the presence of a disk around a planet, a phenomenon that would explain the formation of a moon.
The disk was seen around a planet outside the Solar system, which would also provide clues to the formation of young star systems.
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Capture the formation of a moon
The observations were made possible by the 66 antennas of the Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array (ALMA).
This equipment operates perfectly synchronized with a precision of one millionth of a millionth of a second, explained the scientists who carried out the observation.
The observed disk, called the circumplanetary disk, surrounds the exoplanet PDS 70c and it would be the site of formation of a moon or of several satellite bodies.
This stellar body is one of the two giant planets similar to Jupiter that orbit a star nearly 400 light-years away.
1 / Astronomers made the first clear detection of a moon-forming disc around an exoplanet, using @ALMAObs, in which ESO is a partner.
Credit: ALMA (ESO / NAOJ / NRAO) / Benisty et al. pic.twitter.com/4ybtQJ6myt
– ESO (@ESO) July 22, 2021
A stellar record
The team of scientists discovered that the disk is roughly the same diameter as the distance between our Sun and Earth.
It also has enough mass to form up to three satellites the size of the Moon.
Observations confirm the detection of circumplanetary disk around PDS 70c and thus its size and mass can be studied.
However, they also showed that PDS 70b, a neighboring exoplanet, does not show clear evidence of having such a disk.
The above indicates that PDS 70c consumed all the dusty matter which was in his place of birth.
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In accordance with Myriam benisty, a researcher at the University of Grenoble, France, and the University of Chile, the work entitled A Circumplanetary Disk Around PDS 70c, and which appears published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, presents the clear detection of a disk in which could be forming satellites.
Observations with SOUL they were obtained at such exquisite resolution that the team of astronomers were able to clearly identify that the disk is associated with the planet and were able to measure its size for the first time.
The exoplanets PDS 70b and PDS 70c are two planets that orbit a star at 400 light years away.
They were first discovered using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
Since then, the system that these exoplanets make up has been observed with other telescopes and instruments.
The European Southern Observatory (ESO) is Europe’s leading intergovernmental astronomical organization and the most productive land-based astronomical observatory in the world.
Although the astronomical community had already detected indications of the presence of a “moon-forming” disk around the exoplanet PDS 70c, until now they have clearly distinguished it.
Jaehan bae, one of the authors of the study and researcher of the Earth Laboratory and the Planets from the Carnegie Institution for Science United Statessaid the results are key to explaining how moons arise.
He added that the study on the formation of moons also provides data “to test theories about planet formation that have not been corroborated until now.”
How are planets formed?
Planets form in dusty disks around young stars where the material of the circumstellar disk is engulfed, allowing them to grow.
In this process, a planet can acquire its own circumplanetary disk, which determines the growth of the planet.
A circumstellar disk can regulate the amount of material that falls on the planet.
At the same time, gas and dust from the disk can coalesce into larger and larger bodies through multiple collisions, which ultimately leads to the birth of moons.
Although astronomers have contributed much knowledge about the formation of planets and moons, they still do not explain the details of the process.
“In summary, it is not yet clear when, where and how planets and moons form,” said Stefano Facchini, ESO Research Fellow, also involved in the research.
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A young star system
In accordance with Miriam Keppler, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, in Germany, and co-author of the study, “so far more than 4,000 exoplanets have been found, but all have been detected in mature systems.”
He explained that PDS 70b and PDS 70c, which form a similar system to the one to form Jupiter Y Saturn, they are the only two exoplanets detected so far that are still in the process of formation.
Although there is similarity, it should be noted that the disk around PDS 70c is approximately 500 times bigger than the rings of Saturn.
“Therefore, this system offers us a unique opportunity to observe and study the formation processes of Mondays and planets,” added Facchini.
(With information from ESO)