New Planet Formation? Spiral Structure Discovered Around New Star

First Posted: Sep 30, 2016 06:11 AM EDT

A planet may form around the young star Elias 2-27, but there's more to the potential planet formation. For the first time, a team of international astronomers saw a spiral structure in the gas and dust surrounding the new star, and such structure may be an indication of a new planet formation mechanism.

According to IFL Science, the researchers observed the spiral density wave about half the Sun's mass. Likewise, it was 453 light-years from the Earth. The spiral is 100 to 300 times further from Elias 2-27 than Earth is from the Sun. Such discovery could tell how planets form far from their host stars. Laura Pérez of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy led the team of researchers.

According to Pérez, the discovery provides the very first evidence of a different process of planet formation as compared to the 'standard' picture wherein core accretion forms a planet near a star. When talking about huge distances, the gas and dust are too spread out; hence planets can not form by core accretion. This would need a different mechanism. Such discovery is an example of a system alternative to core accretion.

There has been a 30-year hunt for exoplanets, and humans observed a large variety of systems. However, it was hard to explain such variety when there is only a one formation scenario.

It was Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) that spotted the spiral feature. Previous observations have also spotted it but only this recent analyses allowed to behold the spiral structure. Moreover, there were other spirals observed but this is the first time that researchers looked at a spiral's internal structure.

According to Space, there will be a future research with ALMA in which experts will analyze the protoplanetary disks of Elais 2-27. This aims to explain these spiral arms' origin and their potential role in planet formation. Researchers will likewise analyze similar formations.

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