ALMA detects gas in orbiting planetary disk for the first time

Gas detected in planetary disk for the first time

Scientists studying the young star AS 209 have detected gas in a planetary disk for the first time, suggesting that the star system may host a very young Jupiter-mass planet. The scientific image in the study shows (right) speckled light emission from other empty gaps in a highly structured seven-ringed disk (left). Image credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), J. Bae (U. Florida)

Scientists using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and partners at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) have detected gas in a planetary disk for the first time. What’s more, the detection also showed the existence of a very young exoplanet.The findings were published in astrophysical journal letters.

Circumferential disks are gas, dust, and debris that collect around young planets. These disks create moons and other small rocky objects and control the growth of young giant planets. Studying these disks at their earliest stages may help shed light on the formation of our own solar system, including the formation of Jupiter’s Galilean moons, which scientists believe formed in one of Jupiter’s orbiting planetary disks about 4.5 billion years ago .

While studying AS 209, a young star about 395 light-years from Earth in the constellation Ophiuchus, the scientists observed a clump of emission in the middle of an otherwise empty gap in the gas surrounding the star. This led to the discovery of an orbiting planetary disk around a potential Jupiter-mass planet.

Scientists are closely watching the system because of the planet’s distance from the star and the age of the star. The exoplanet is more than 200 AU, or 18.59 billion miles, from its host star, challenging currently accepted theories of planet formation. If the estimated age of the host star is only 1.6 million years old, the exoplanet could be one of the youngest ever discovered. Further research is needed, and scientists hope that upcoming observations with the James Webb Space Telescope will confirm the planet’s existence.

ALMA detects gas in orbiting planetary disk for the first time

AS 209 is a young star in the constellation Ophiuchus that scientists have now determined may be one of the youngest exoplanets ever discovered. Image credits: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), A. Sierra (Chile, USA)

“The best way to study planet formation is to observe them as they form. We are living in very exciting times thanks to powerful telescopes like ALMA and JWST,” said astronomy professor Jaehan Bae. University of Florida and lead author of the paper.

Scientists have long suspected the existence of circumplanetary disks around exoplanets, but have been unable to prove it until recently. In 2019, ALMA scientists first detected a moon-forming disk around the planet while observing the young exoplanet PDS 70c, and confirmed the discovery in 2021. New observations of the gas in AS 209’s orbiting disk may shed further light on the development of the planet’s atmosphere and the process of moon formation.

Moon-forming disk found around distant planet

More information:
Jaehan Bae et al. Molecules using ALMA at the Planet Formation Scale (MAPS): Orbiting Disk Candidates in Molecular Line Emissions in the Disk of AS 209, astrophysical journal letters (2022). DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/ac7fa3

Provided by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory

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