Tuesday, June 21, 2022

New photos reveal disks of dust around massive stars

While investigating young , massive stars for planetary formation processes, an international team of astronomers discovered a possible young planet, with a mass similar to Jupiter, and confirmed the existence of two brown dwarf stars. Captured by the Gemini South telescope, the images form a mosaic of dust disks, and were presented during the 240th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

 Planets are formed in disks of gas and dust , which surround young stars a few million years old; in this case, previous observations have shown that it is common to have rings of dust grains in these disks. For now, it is not known exactly what these structures form, but they have been related to newborn planets interacting with the records.

So the study's astronomers tried to answer some of these questions with high-resolution photos of the disks around 44 stars.

"We want to answer the fundamental question of how planets form," explained Evan Rich, lead author of the study. Therefore, the survey focused on stars more massive than the Sun , as a way of investigating the influence that the parent star's mass may have on planet formation processes. During the study, the authors investigated the disks of planet formation in polarized and near-infrared light.

It is possible that these disks give rise to new systems, and the survey showed that those involving stars up to three solar masses tend to have rings. The disks around stars with more than three solar masses do not appear to have rings, which suggests that the more massive stars form planets by slightly different processes.

Observations with Gemini South showed the existence of disks around 80% of the stars studied, along with a possible planet and three brown dwarfs ; two of them have already been identified as candidates in previous observations, and have now been confirmed. The third, which orbits the star HD 101412, is a new candidate.

Ultimately, the study's main finding is that the disks appear to behave in different ways, which depend on the mass of the star they surround. "Small-grain ring systems are only found around stars less than three solar masses," Rich said.

According to him, this is important, because astronomers consider that planets in formation are capable of creating the ring structure. "Our findings suggest that the process of planet formation may be different for stars with a mass of more than three times that of the Sun."

The article with the results of the study will be published in The Astronomical Journal and can be accessed in the arXiv repository , without peer review.

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