Thu, 15 Sep 2022 02:40 PM IST
A new study by the astronomers at the Center for Astrophysics has provided evidence of a new planet in the universe.
Planets are created in protoplanetary discs, which are the bands of gas and dust that encircle newly formed, young stars. The birth and development of a genuine planetary, however, have been challenging to observe even if there are hundreds of these discs in the universe.
Meanwhile, astronomers at the Center for Astrophysics have created a novel method to find these elusive newborn planets, along with "smoking gun" proof of a small Neptune or Saturn-like planet hiding in a disc. The Astrophysical Journal Letters published a description of the findings.
As per Feng Long, a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Astrophysics and project leader, "directly finding young planets is highly tough and has thus far only been effective in one or two situations." Because they are encased in substantial amounts of gas and dust, planets are always too dim for us to see them.
Instead, they must look for signs that a planet is forming beneath the dust.
She also explains that in recent years, "many structures have appeared on discs that we think are caused by the existence of a planet, but it could be caused by something else, too." "We need new methods to examine and provide evidence that a planet exists."
She also chose to revisit the LkCa 15 protoplanetary disc for her research. The disc is located in the Taurus constellation, 518 light years away. Previous research employing ALMA Observatory images showed proof of planet formation in the disc.
A high-resolution ALMA data on LkCa 15 from 2019 showed two faint characteristics that weren't there before.
Long also discovered a dusty ring with two distinct, brilliant clusters of material circling within it at a distance of around 42 astronomical units from the star, or 42 times the distance between Earth and the Sun. The material was divided by 120 degrees and appeared as a small clump and a bigger arc.
Long highlights point to locations in space known as Lagrange points, where two moving bodies, like an orbiting planet and a star, form stronger zones of attraction where the matter may gather.
She then explains, "We're seeing that this material is not simply floating around freely, it's stable and has a preference where it wants to be put."
In this instance, the L4 and L5 Lagrange points are where Long found the arc and clump of material. A small planet hidden between them at an angle of 60 degrees is what is producing the buildup of dust between locations L4 and L5.
The findings indicate that the planet is between one and three million years old and is around the size of Neptune or Saturn. When we talk about the planets, that is a youthful age.
However, due to the technological limitations, it might not be feasible to directly image the small, young planet anytime soon, but according to Long, additional ALMA studies of LkCa 15 can offer more proof in support of her planetary discovery.
(With inputs from ANI)