Science

Moon Formation: ALMA Observatory Captures A Faraway Planet Forming Its Own Moons, Similar To Jupiter's Moon Formation

Written By Suchitra Karthikeyan | Mumbai | Published:

Hack:

  • A faraway planet has been spotted growing moons by the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) observatory in Chile on Thursday
  • Astronomers have made the first observations of a circumplanetary disk of gas and dust around the young star system, PDS 70 is located approximately 370 light-years from Earth
  • According to ALMA, PDS 70 is a dwarf star weighing three-quarters the mass of the sun. These findings could allow astronomers to test theories of planet formation

As India prepares to explore the south pole on the moon orbiting the Earth with Chandrayaan 2, a faraway planet has been spotted growing moons by the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) observatory in Chile on Thursday.

As per a press release by ALMA, astronomers have made the first observations of a circumplanetary disk of gas and dust around the young star system, PDS 70, is located approximately 370 light-years from Earth. The 'circumplanetary disk' is believed to be instrumental in the formation of planets and gives rise to an entire system of moons, like the one found around Jupiter.

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What has ALMA observed?

Talking about the findings, lead author Andrea Isella, an astronomer at Rice University in Houston, Texas, has said that a planet was viewed for the first time in three distinct bands of light (optical, infrared, and radio), which indicate to planetary formation. Isella has published a paper of the findings in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"By comparing our observations to the high-resolution infrared and optical images, we can see that the concentration of tiny dust particles viewed is actually a planet-girding disk of dust. For the first time, we can conclusively see the telltale signs of a circumplanetary disk, which helps to support many of the current theories of planet formation," he said.

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How is it similar to Jupiter's moon formation?

Drawing similarities to the moon formation in PDS 70 and Jupiter, Isella has said that if a planet is large enough, it can form its own disk as it happened in the case of Jupiter. 

"Planets form from disks of gas and dust around newly forming stars, and if a planet is large enough, it can form its own disk as it gathers material in its orbit around the star. Jupiter and its moons are a little planetary system within our solar system, for example, and it's believed Jupiter's moons formed from a circumplanetary disk when Jupiter was very young," he added.

Isella said direct observation of planets with circumplanetary disks could allow astronomers to test theories of planet formation.

What is PDS 70 star system?

According to ALMA, PDS 70 is a dwarf star weighing three-quarters the mass of the sun. Both of its planets are 5-10 times larger than Jupiter. The innermost planet - PDS 70 b, orbits about 1.8 billion miles from the star which is roughly the distance from the sun to Uranus. While as, PDS 70 c is a billion miles further out, in an orbit about the size of Neptune's orbit.
 

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