Astronomers Spot Moons Forming in Disk Around Distant Exoplanet


Our solar system is home to an amazing lunar zoo. the icy ones filled with turbulent oceans, adorned with trenches filled with volcanic oceans raging hellfire. To date, astronomers have discovered 4,438 worlds orbits other stars, and there is no doubt that various moons dance around most of these exoplanets. But stargazers haven’t found anything definitive yet – these outer moons have proven to be too small and too distant to be detected.

Now, after years of observing a pair of Jupiter-like exoplanets about 400 light-years from Earth, astronomers have found the next best thing: a spinning disk of debris around one of these worlds, a ring of rock and gas slowly coalescing beneath it. own gravity. In other words, astronomers caught a foundry orbiting a planet in the act of making satellites.

This is the first time such a feature has been clearly identified. And unlike many extrasolar discoveries, this object has not been found by indirect methods – for example, the subtle shaking of a star reveals the presence of an orbiting planet. This disc has been photographed effectively. This is a true image of a baby planet surrounded by its own moon-making forge.

astronomers unconditional excitementand a little lost for words. “I don’t have consistent scientific considerations. “I just look at the picture and say ‘wow’ every time I see it,” she said. bruce macintosh, an astronomer at Stanford University who was not involved in the study.

This discovery – reported on Thursday Astrophysical Journal Letters — will help scientists tackle one of the most puzzling questions in astronomy: How do planets and their moons form? Possible answers call for countless world-building methods: titanic effects to be glued together hail from outer space, where gravitational force can fight disturbances caused by magnetic eddies emerging worlds are thought to meet.

“We have all these theories, which is nice, but if you can’t test them, they could be completely wrong,” he said. Myriam Benisty, an astronomer at the University of Grenoble and lead author of the study. The extraordinary system that he and his colleagues have identified is the perfect place to review these ideas.

The 4.6 billion-year-old solar system is somewhat middle-aged. This distant star system, by contrast, his childhood. Its star, PDS 70, came to life only six million years ago. The stellar disk of gas and dust still exists, forming the two Jupiter-like planets, PDS 70b and PDS 70c. As the new planets slowly come together, the two young ones that already exist continue to siphon the debris of this disk and reinforce themselves with it.

The Very Large Telescope in Chile’s Atacama Desert found both exoplanets with the discovery of PDS 70b. 2018, and PDS 70c’s 2019. A month later, scientists use Chile’s Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) reported Promising evidence that radio waves from fine dust are emanating from around PDS 70c is evidence of a lunar disk of debris surrounding it.

But the signal was weak. Dr. Benisty and her colleagues used ALMA to make follow-up observations and showed with little doubt that PDS 70c had its own debris disk, one large enough to make three moons the size of Earth’s moon.

It won’t be long before such discoveries become routine. In the coming months and years, increasingly stronger telescopes and space observatories will be operational. Soon, the first outer moons themselves will be captured on camera. Maybe one day we’ll catch an exo-Earth on camera – a second pale blue dot. “This is our dream” he said Kate Follette, an astronomer at Amherst College who was not involved in the work.

Astronomers can’t wait to see them all. But their appetite for exploration was temporarily sated by the extraordinary sight of alien moons preparing to make their debut. Dr. “It’s rare that you see something this beautiful, especially in our space,” Follette said.


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