Astronomers managed to obtain incredible near-infrared images of a twisted cloud of dust and gas over 530 light-years away. There is reason to believe that this could answer many a question pertaining to how planets grow from grain to globe.
The images are of a protoplanetary disc around a young star named AB Aurigae, according to Science Alert. The images depict “spiralling disturbances” which are believed, by researches, to be caused by planets merging from dust.
In their paper, the researchers wrote: “In the early stage of planet formation, hydrodynamical simulations indicate that the accretion process generates at the planet location an inner and outer spiral pattern due to Lindblad resonances induced by disc-planet interactions.
“While this crucial step is well documented by theoretical works, observational evidences are rare and not fully conclusive.”
The images captured subtle light from smaller dust grains. These were combined with earlier ALMA data and showed an S-shaped disturbance in the protoplanetary disc that “looks a lot like the spiral density waves we’d expect to see propagating from an accreting protoplanet,” according to Science Mag.
Images of the AB Aurigae system showing the disc around it. The image on the right, a zoomed-in version of the central part of the image on the left, shows the inner region of the disc. This inner region includes the ‘twist’ (in very bright yellow) that scientists believe marks the spot where a planet is forming. This twist lies at about the same distance from the AB Aurigae star as Neptune from the Sun. The images were obtained with the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope in polarised light.
Image credit: ESO/Boccaletti et al.