Strange Shadow Around Star May Be Newborn Planet
(Photo : European Southern Observatory (ESO)/YouTube screenshot)
New alien planets may just have been found by astronomers as they discover a bizarre shadow that was cast on the dust and gas surrounding a young star called TW Hydrae.
The bizarre shadow is noted by Space.com as a likely evidence of an unseen exoplanet orbiting within the disk. The research team noticed its presence after analyzing 18 years' worth of observations of the star, which is said to be around 8 million years old and is located around 192 lightyears away from Earth, in the Hydra constellation.
Images taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope showed that the shadow can be seen rotating around the 41-billion-mile wide disk once every 16 years. John Debes, the lead author of the study from Space Telescope science Institute in Baltimore, said in a statement that this look at the disk, which is said to have a lot of images over the years, can give scientists hope that the shadow phenomenon can be common in young stellar systems.
Unseen exoplanets can be best explained for the shadow, but not the alien world itself. According to Debes and his colleagues, it may actually be the planet's gravity that has twisted and tilted the inner portion of the gas disk, blocking starlight that is headed toward its outer parts. The discovery, despite its uniqueness, offers so much more: a way to hunt for planets and find out what is happening to a nearby star in a disk of gas and dust, for instance.
Debes himself noted that it is surprising how much people can learn by studying the disk's outer region and by measuring motion and location, and even the behavior of the mere shadows. "This study shows us that even these large disks, whose inner regions are unobservable, are still dynamic, or changing in detectable ways which we didn't imagine," he said.