Two Chilean astronomers and a Master of Science student from the University of Chile discovered how planets leave marks of the planetary formation process. They were able to analyze that with the ALMA observatory after they studied 20 stars found in the star-forming regions of Ophiuchus and Lupus constellations.
“Thanks to the spectacular resolution that ALMA gives us, we were able to see that stars form planets in their early stages of life, quickly. Also, thanks to the data obtained, we were able to see clearly that this process leaves traces”, explained Laura Perez, an astronomer of the Department of Astronomy of the Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences of the University of Chile.
The most common trace found was “the rings and to a lesser extent asymmetries and spiral arms.” In particular, Perez investigated a disc that “showed that its part closest to the star is misaligned with respect to the external zone, something that would be expected to happen only in the presence of an enormous planet, of about ten times more massive than Jupiter.”
“Since we obtained the data, we have worked more than six months calibrating it, cleaning the effects of the atmosphere, generating the highest quality images possible, and then studying them. We came up with mathematical models, and we characterized the structures that appear in the disks of these young stars,” said Nicolas Troncoso, Master of Science student at the University of Chile.
Planetary Formation Process Leaves Detectable Marks, Revealed Chilean Astronomers In Recent Study
Scientists agree that this finding allows us to infer that the most massive planets, with dimensions and compositions similar to those of Neptune or Saturn, form quickly, much faster than current theories postulate.
“When stars are being born, and planets are forming around them, interaction with binary companions can strongly affect the way planets are born. We had the opportunity to see these interactions for the first time, and we discovered that the stars bother each other and their protoplanetary disks, thus producing an exchange of material and spirals of the dimensions of the entire Solar System,” Troncoso added.
Viviana Guzman commented that one of the future objectives is “to observe the gaseous component of these protoplanetary disks. For that, we have a large program of 130 hours of observation, in which we will map the distribution of organic molecules (carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen), which will allow us to study in detail the initial chemical conditions of these planetary systems.”