Nav: Home

Nearby red dwarves could reveal planet secrets: ANU media release

September 15, 2015

An accidental find of a collection of young red dwarf stars close to our solar system could give us a rare glimpse of slow-motion planet formation.

Astronomers from The Australian National University (ANU) and UNSW Canberra found large discs of dust around two of the stars, tell-tale signs of planets in the process of forming.

"We think the Earth and all the other planets formed from discs like these so it is fascinating to see a potential new solar system evolving," said the lead researcher Dr Simon Murphy, from the ANU Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

"However, other stars of this age usually don't have discs any more. The red dwarf discs seem to live longer than those of hotter stars like the Sun. We don't understand why," said Dr Murphy.

The discovery of objects like these two challenges current theories about planet formation, said co-author Professor Warrick Lawson from UNSW Canberra.

"It suggests the planet forming process can endure a lot longer than previously thought," he said

The red dwarves may also host planets that have already formed from the dusty discs, Dr Murphy said.

"I think a lot of telescopes will be turned toward them in the next few years to look for planets."

The giveaway that the red dwarves had discs around them was an unusual glow in the infrared spectrum of the stars.

Although the discs were not observed directly, Dr Murphy said such close red dwarves offered a good chance of catching a rare direct glimpse of a disc, or even a planet, by employing specialised telescopes.

"Because they are fainter than other stars and there is not as much glare, young red dwarves are ideal places to directly pick out recently formed planets," he said.

Our ability to detect these dim stars has improved dramatically in recent decades, revealing a wealth of information, said Professor Lawson.

"Less than 20 years ago, the notion that the nearest part of the Galaxy would be littered with young stars was a completely novel one," he said.

"Most of these objects lie in the southern sky and thus are best accessed by telescopes in the southern hemisphere, including those operated by the ANU and Australia more broadly."

The research is published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Journal.
-end-


Australian National University

Related Solar System Articles:

Pressure runs high at edge of solar system
Out at the boundary of our solar system, pressure runs high.
What a dying star's ashes tell us about the birth of our solar system
A UA-led team of researchers discovered a dust grain forged in a stellar explosion before our solar system was born.
What scientists found after sifting through dust in the solar system
Two recent studies report discoveries of dust rings in the inner solar system: a dust ring at Mercury's orbit, and a group of never-before-detected asteroids co-orbiting with Venus, supplying the dust in Venus' orbit.
Discovered: The most-distant solar system object ever observed
A team of astronomers has discovered the most-distant body ever observed in our solar system.
Discovery of the first body in the Solar System with an extrasolar origin
Asteroid 2015 BZ509 is the very first object in the Solar System shown to have an extrasolar origin.
First interstellar immigrant discovered in the solar system
A new study has discovered the first known permanent immigrant to our solar system.
A star disturbed the comets of the solar system in prehistory
About 70,000 years ago, when the human species was already on Earth, a small reddish star approached our solar system and gravitationally disturbed comets and asteroids.
Scientists detect comets outside our solar system
Scientists from MIT and other institutions, working closely with amateur astronomers, have spotted the dusty tails of six exocomets -- comets outside our solar system -- orbiting a faint star 800 light years from Earth.
Does the organic material of comets predate our solar system?
The Rosetta space probe discovered a large amount of organic material in the nucleus of comet 'Chury.' In an article published by MNRAS on Aug.
Tracking a solar eruption through the solar system
Ten spacecraft, from ESA's Venus Express to NASA's Voyager-2, felt the effect of a solar eruption as it washed through the solar system while three other satellites watched, providing a unique perspective on this space weather event.
More Solar System News and Solar System Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.