June 16, 2024
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Protoplanetary disk AS 209 | Earth Blog

Protoplanetary disk AS 209

Located in the young star-forming region of Ophiuchus, 410 light-years from the Sun, a fascinating protoplanetary disk called AS 209 is slowly being carved. This wonderful image was captured with the high-resolution ALMA telescope and reveals a curious pattern of rings and spaces in the dust surrounding a young star.

Protoplanetary disks are dense, rotating planes of gas and dust that surround newly formed stars; providing the matter that one day becomes planets, moons and other smaller bodies in orbit. This system, less than a million years old, is very young, but two clear gaps are already being carved into the disk.

The outer gap is deep, wide and largely a dust-free zone, leading astronomers to believe that a giant planet nearly the mass of Saturn orbits here, about 800 light minutes from the central star and more than three times the distance. between Neptune and the Sun! As the planet makes its way, dust accumulates on the outer edge of its orbit, creating increasingly defined rings in the disk. The thinner inner dust gap could have been formed by a smaller planet, but astronomers have raised the intriguing possibility that the large, distant spinning planet actually created both paths.

This putative Saturn-like planet so far from its central star raises fascinating questions about planet formation at the edges of protoplanetary disks on particularly short time scales.

Image credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/D. Fedele et al.
Explanation from: https://www.eso.org/public/images/potw1809a/

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