An international team of astronomers observing HD142527, a young star 450 light years from Earth surrounded by a disc of gas and cosmic dust, have witnessed the birth of new planets.
The gas and dust surrounding the star are left over from its own birth, and consist of an inner and outer disc. The gap between the two disks was carved by new planets forming, accumulating gas and dust as they orbit around the star.
The ALMA telescope glimpsed the star system in fine detail using submillimeter wavelengths to catch the planets forming. It’s the first time astronomers were able to see streams of gas bridging the gap across the discs providing evidence of how planets are born and grow.
“Astronomers have been predicting that these streams must exist, but this is the first time we’ve been able to see them directly,” study researcher Simon Casassus, of the Universidad de Chile, said in a press release by the European Southern Observatory. “Thanks to the new ALMA telescope, we’ve been able to get direct observations to illuminate current theories of how planets are formed!”
The central star is still growing and forming, but at this point in its evolution, the inner disc should have already been completely consumed by the star. The astronomers discovered that the inner disc is being replenished by the streams from the the outer disc.
“We think that there is a giant planet hidden within, and causing, each of these streams. The planets grow by capturing some of the gas from the outer disc, but they are really messy eaters: The rest of it overshoots and feeds into the inner disc around the star,” study researcher Sebastian Perez said.
The study will be published on January 2, 2013 in the journal Nature.
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