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Stargazing Spitzer Telescope spies 'youngest' planet

  1. May 28, 2004 #1
    Telescope spies 'youngest' planet

    An impression of what it might be like in the CoKu Tau 4 system

    Nasa's Spitzer telescope has found evidence around a distant star for a planet that may be less than one million years old.

    The infrared space observatory studied five stars in the constellation Taurus, about 420 light-years away.

    All had dusty discs around them in which new planets are presumed to be forming out of accreting material.

    And for the star CoKu Tau 4, Spitzer saw a clearing in the disc which could have been swept clean by a new world.



    Spitzer telescope: http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/: NASA has announced new findings from the Spitzer Space Telescope including the discovery of significant amounts of icy organic materials sprinkle throughout several "planetary construction zones," or dusty planet-formin discs, which circle infant stars

    Spectra Show Protoplanetary Disc Structures
    How can you tell if a star has a protoplanetary disc around it, when the disc is too small to image directly? http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/Media/releases/ssc2004-08/ssc2004-08c.shtml

    Using sensitive instruments onboard NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, scientists have seen the first building blocks of planets, and possibly future life, deep within dusty discs around young stars. The image shows spectra, obtained by Spitzer's infrared spectrograph, of two stars that are so young they are still embedded in protoplanetary discs. These thick discs of gas and dust are the leftover material from the formation of the stars themselves. The spectra are graphical representations of a celestial object's unique blend of light. Characteristic patterns, or fingerprints, within the spectra allow astronomers to identify the object's chemical composition .... and the presence of silicates, which are chemically similar to beach sand.
    Last edited: May 28, 2004
  2. jcsd
  3. May 29, 2004 #2
    In another thread meteor provided this link: http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99995052.

    some quotes:
    The innermost parts of the disc, where the gas would be hotter and therefore emitting shorter wavelengths, is missing. While there are a few possible explanations for the hole in the disc, Watson thinks that a giant planet has formed around CoKu Tau 4.

    The material in these discs is thought to constantly migrate in towards the growing star, being resupplied by the diffuse envelope of gas and dust that surrounds the whole system. But a giant planet would interrupt that process.

    While gas and dust inside its orbit would continue to drift in and be consumed by the star, the young planet would grab the gas close to it, leading to the hole in the disc.

    If Watson is right, then the leading theory of giant planet formation is wrong. The idea was that to make a gas planet like Jupiter, a core of rocky material has to build up before it gathers gas around it. But that should take at least four million years, says Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution in Washington DC - and CoKu Tau 4 is only a quarter of that age.

    Boss favours another idea - that the gas in proto-planetary discs may simply clump together under its own gravity. In this way, a giant planet could form in thousands of years rather than millions, easily fast enough to explain the new observations.

    That means planetary systems like our own could be very common. Most stars form in violent stellar nurseries, where the light of massive, bright stars quickly evaporates dusty discs. But fast formation would mean Jupiter-like planets could form before the discs disappear.
  4. Jun 3, 2004 #3
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2004
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