A New Planet Is Born?

October 21, 1998

UK CONTACT - Claire Bowles, New Scientist Press Office, London:
Tel: 44 171 331 2751 or email claire.bowles@rbi.co.uk
US CONTACT - Barbara Thurlow, New Scientist Washington office:
Tel: 202 452 1178 or email newscidc@idt.net

THE Hubble Space Telescope has spotted dust coalescing in discs around stars in Orion. Astronomers say they may be witnessing the birth of new planets.

Larry Esposito, an astronomer at the University of Colorado in Boulder, his graduate student Henry Throop and their colleagues looked at dust discs against the bright background of the Orion nebula. Using an infrared camera on the Hubble Space Telescope, they showed that the rings around three stars contain dust at least 10 micrometres across. This is nearly 100 times the size of interstellar dust in the region.

The observations reveal a critical early stage in planetary evolution. Stars form when interstellar dust clouds collapse. Some of the debris remains in orbit around the forming stars, and theory suggests that the dust grains, which start off about 0á2 micrometres wide, should aggregate into millimetre-wide particles within 10 000 years. Over tens of millions of years these can stick together to form planets.

Throop, who announced the results last week at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences in Madison, Wisconsin, says planets may well be forming in the Orion nebula. As many as 30 per cent of the young stars there appear to have discs. "It suggests planet formation may be relatively common," says Throop.

This week, Helen Walker of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire reported that data from the Infrared Space Observatory have revealed even larger particles, 200 micrometres across, around the star Vega.

Author: Jeff Hecht
New Scientist magazine, issue 24th October.


New Scientist

Related Hubble Space Telescope Articles from Brightsurf:

Spitzer space telescope legacy chronicled in Nature Astronomy
A national team of scientists Thursday published in the journal Nature Astronomy two papers that provide an inventory of the major discoveries made possible thanks to Spitzer and offer guidance on where the next generation of explorers should point the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) when it launches in October 2021.

Unveiling rogue planets with NASA's Roman Space Telescope
New simulations show that NASA's Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope will be able to reveal myriad rogue planets - freely floating bodies that drift through our galaxy untethered to a star.

Hubble makes the first observation of a total lunar eclipse by a space telescope
Taking advantage of a total lunar eclipse, astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have detected ozone in Earth's atmosphere.

Stunning space butterfly captured by ESO telescope
Resembling a butterfly with its symmetrical structure, beautiful colours, and intricate patterns, this striking bubble of gas -- known as NGC 2899 -- appears to float and flutter across the sky in this new picture from ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT).

Hubble marks 30 years in space with tapestry of blazing starbirth
NASA is celebrating the Hubble Space Telescope's 30 years of unlocking the beauty and mystery of space by unveiling a stunning new portrait of a firestorm of starbirth in a neighboring galaxy.

CHEOPS space telescope ready for scientific operation
CHEOPS has reached its next milestone: Following extensive tests in Earth's orbit, some of which the mission team was forced to carry out from home due to the coronavirus crisis, the space telescope has been declared ready for science.

Scientists build a 'Hubble Space Telescope' to study multiple genome sequences
Scientists can now simultaneously compare 1.4 million genetic sequences, helping classify how species are related to each other at far larger scales than previously possible.

Kepler Space Telescope's first exoplanet candidate confirmed
An international team of astronomers announced the confirmation of the first exoplanet candidate identified by NASA's Kepler Mission.

Space telescope detects water in a number of asteroids
Using the infrared satellite AKARI, a Japanese research team has detected the existence of water in the form of hydrated minerals in a number of asteroids for the first time.

The Hubble Space Telescope discovers the most distant star ever observed
An international team, including researchers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) and the University of La Laguna (ULL), participated in the discovery of a star at a distance of nine billion lightyears from Earth.

Read More: Hubble Space Telescope News and Hubble Space Telescope Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.