Spring Cleaning in an Infant Star System

This image depicts the dusty disc encircling the young, isolated star HD 169142. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) imaged this disc in high resolution by picking up faint signals from its constituent millimetre-sized dust grains. The vivid rings are thick bands of dust, separated by deep gaps.

Optimised to study the cold gas and dust of systems like HD 169142, ALMA’s sharp eyes have revealed the structure of many infant solar systems with similar cavities and gaps. A variety of theories have been proposed to explain them — such as turbulence caused by magnetorotational instability, or the fusing of dust grains — but the most plausible explanation is that these pronounced gaps were carved out by giant protoplanets.

When solar systems form gas and dust coalesce into planets. These planets then effectively spring clean their orbits, clearing them of gas and dust and herding the remaining material into well-defined bands. The deep gaps seen in this image are consistent with the presence of multiple protoplanets — a finding that agrees with other optical and infrared studies of the same system.

Observing such dusty protoplanetary discs with ALMA allows scientists to investigate the first steps of planet formation in a bid to unveil the evolutionary paths of these infant systems.

Links

Credit:

ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/ Fedele et al.

About the Image

Id:potw1714a
Type:Observation
Release date:3 April 2017, 06:00
Size:2000 x 2000 px

About the Object

Name:HD 169142
Type:Milky Way : Star : Circumstellar Material : Disk : Protoplanetary
Distance:380 light years
Constellation:Sagittarius
Category:Stars

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Coordinates

Position (RA):18 24 29.78
Position (Dec):-29° 46' 49.90"
Field of view:0.01 x 0.01 arcminutes
Orientation:North is -0.0° left of vertical

Colours & filters

BandWavelengthTelescope
Millimeter
230 GHz
1.3 mmAtacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array
Band 6

 

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