News Release Archive:

News Release 25 of 1028

October 29, 2015 01:00 PM (EDT)

News Release Number: STScI-2015-40

Spirals in Dust Around Young Stars May Betray Presence of Massive Planets

October 29, 2015: A team of astronomers is proposing that huge spiral patterns seen around some newborn stars, merely a few million years old (about one percent our sun's age), may be evidence for the presence of giant, unseen planets. This idea not only opens the door to a new method of planet detection, but also could offer a look into the early formative years of planet birth. Though astronomers have cataloged thousands of planets orbiting other stars, the very earliest stages of planet formation are elusive because nascent planets are born and embedded inside vast, pancake-shaped disks of dust and gas encircling newborn stars. The conclusion that planets may betray their presence by modifying circumstellar disks on large scales is based on detailed computer modeling of how gas-and-dust disks evolve around newborn stars.

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Photo Credit: NASA, ESA, ESO, M. Benisty et al. (University of Grenoble), R. Dong (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), and Z. Zhu (Princeton University)

Science Credit: NASA, ESA, R. Dong (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California, Berkeley), and Z. Zhu (Princeton University)