Jun 08, 2019 08:19 AM EDT
The Monash School of Physics and Astronomy has led an international study where they discovered the first observational evidence for the existence of circumplanetary discs. Their study was published in the Astrophysical Channel Letters.
The team focused on studying young planets that are still in the process of formation and are typically only a few million years old.
Dr. Valentin Christiaens, the paper's lead author, and a postdoctoral research fellow in astrophysics at Monash University stated that the research helps in understanding how the 4.6 billion-year-old solar system, where earth belongs, came about.
To obtain infrared images in different wavelengths, characterized by color, of a newborn giant planet, the research team used the Very Large Telescope facility in Chile for their study.
Dr. Christiaens stated that they found the first evidence for a disc of gas with dust around it. This is known as a circumplanetary disc. The researcher also added that their theory also puts the large moons of Jupiter and other gas giants under the category of those born in such a disc of gas and dust.
The innovative method used to obtain the study entailed having to cancel the bright glare from the star in the images. This makes the process of observing a newborn planet much more difficult as compared to observing a star that it orbited.
Dr. Christiaens pointed out that the algorithm they developed and used can be utilized to extract faint signals from other complex datasets as well.
The team's prediction regarding moons of gas giants being formed within a circumplanetary disc has been supported by theoretical calculations and numerical simulations of increasing complexity.
The lead author pointed out that their research, being the first to detect circumplanetary discs, has added another piece to the puzzle of giant planet formation. Dr. Christiaens explains that Galileo was the first to contribute a puzzle piece with his discovery of the four major moons of Jupiter over four centuries ago.
Daniel Price, an associate professor from the Monash School of Physics and Astronomy, an ARC fellow, and the co-author of the study expressed his excitement as humans can now see planets in the process of formation using the biggest telescope in the world.
Dr. Christophe Pinte, another co-author of the study, and ARC future fellow, stated that the results of their study were possible because of the combination of a long and intense search for circumplanetary discs through various means and wavelengths.
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