From Ethan Siegel: “This Is What It Looks Like When Solar Systems Form”

From Ethan Siegel
Apr 16, 2018

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The star TW Hydrae. an analogue of the Sun and other sun-like stars, in its very early stages already shows evidence of new planets forming at various radii in its protoplanetary disk. S. Andrews (Harvard-Smithsonian CfA); B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF); ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

CfA Submillimeter Array Mauna Kea, Hawaii, USA,4,207 m (13,802 ft) above sea level

NRAO/Karl V Jansky VLA, on the Plains of San Agustin fifty miles west of Socorro, NM, USA, at an elevation of 6970 ft (2124 m)

ESO/NRAO/NAOJ ALMA Array in Chile in the Atacama at Chajnantor plateau, at 5,000 metres

After generations of speculations, we’ve finally got the images that tell us the full story.

Some 4.5 billion years ago, our Sun and Solar System were born from a collapsing cloud of gas, likely alongside many other stars.

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Artist’s impression of a young star surrounded by a protoplanetary disk. There are many unknown properties about protoplanetary disks around Sun-like stars, but observations are catching up. (ESO/L. Calçada)

Over time, a protoplanetary disk forms, where imperfections will lead to young planets that eventually create full fledged solar systems.

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A large number of protoplanetary systems have been imaged, but the state-of-the-art infrared imager designed for exoplanet disk pictures is SPHERE, which routinely obtains resolutions of ~10″, or less than 0.003 degrees per pixel. (SHINE (SpHere INfrared survey for Exoplanets) collaboration / Arthur Vigan)

The details of how that work, however, have varied wildly depending on which stars we look at.

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The young F-class star, HD 135344, exhibits a transitional structure showing both rings and a spiral shape to it. This star is more massive than our Sun, and right on the border of being or not being a T Tauri star. (T. Stolker et al., A&A, 595 (2016) A113)

Some stars, more massive than ours, show spiral shapes in their disks.

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The observational structure of the young star MWC 758, at right, compared with a simulation involving a large outer planet, at left. This Herbig star is much more massive than our Sun ever was. (NASA, ESA, ESO, M. Benisty et al. (University of Grenoble), R. Dong (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), and Z. Zhu (Princeton University))

NASA/ESA Hubble Telescope

ESO VLT Platform at Cerro Paranal elevation 2,635 m (8,645 ft)

The more massive they are, the more likely they are to show this structure, consistent with a large, outer, structure-driving planet.

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The protoplanetary disk around the star HL Tauri in a young star cluster may well be the best analogue of a Sun-like star forming, with planets around it, that we’ve ever seen. (ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/NASA/ESA)

Others, lower in mass, show clear, symmetric rings.

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Some stars, like HD 141569, show evidence of both ring-like structures and a disrupted, discontinuous presence. Most protoplanetary disks, like this one, are around closer, higher-mass stars. (C. Perrot et al., A&A, 590 (2016) L7)

Still others show a hybrid structure, where the rings exhibit some circularly-symmetric and some non-symmetric features.

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The ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) contains a new imaging instrument on it, SPHERE, which allows us to image exoplanets and protoplanetary disks around smaller, lower-mass stars at high resolution than ever before, and to do so rapidly as well. (ESO / Serge Brunier)

ESO/SPHERE extreme adaptive optics system and coronagraphic facility on the VLT


ESO SPHERE extreme adaptive optics system and coronagraphic facility on the extreme adaptive optics system and coronagraphic facility on the VLT, Cerro Paranal, Chile, with an elevation of 2,635 metres (8,645 ft) above sea level

Owing to a new instrument on a remarkable telescope, the ESO’s Very Large Telescope, we can now image protoplanetary disks directly.

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The SPHERE Common Path Infrastructure includes the main optical bench, connects the other sub-systems to the light path, and guarantees a static alignment of SPHERE to the VLT focus. The IRDIS instrument, in particular (at lower-left), is what enables these new, spectacular images. (ESO / SPHERE collaboration)

The SPHERE instrument, optimized for infrared exoplanet research, includes the IRDIS imager, designed for high-resolution viewing.

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Eight young T Tauri stars, as imaged by SPHERE, show disks, rings, and symmetric, unperturbed structures. These 8 disks range in age from 1 to 15 million years, and are all around stars of 2 solar masses or less.(H. Avenhaus et al. (2018), https://arxiv.org/abs/1803.10882)

When it looked at T Tauri stars, very young stars of 2 solar masses or less, here’s what it saw.

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The best ring-like fits around these stars, done automatically where the fits are good and manually where they are not.(H. Avenhaus et al. (2018), https://arxiv.org/abs/1803.10882)

Regardless of age or mass, symmetric and well-defined rings, disks, and gaps exist around every one.

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All eight of these systems, imaged and processed and fitted to better understand what’s going on around these pre-main-sequence stars. The infant stages of planet formation are all in play here.(H. Avenhaus et al. (2018), https://arxiv.org/abs/1803.10882)

This should be exactly what our youthful Sun looked like.

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The evolving protoplanetary disk, with large gaps, around the young star HL Tauri. ALMA image on the left, VLA image on the right. With the upcoming 30-meter class telescopes like GMT and ELT, new views of a protoplanetary disk like this, including in the optical, will become possible at last. (Carrasco-Gonzalez, et al.; Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Giant Magellan Telescope, to be at the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Las Campanas Observatory, to be built some 115 km (71 mi) north-northeast of La Serena, Chile, over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high

ESO/E-ELT,to be on top of Cerro Armazones in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile, at an altitude 3,046 m (9,993 ft)

See the full article here .

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“Starts With A Bang! is a blog/video blog about cosmology, physics, astronomy, and anything else I find interesting enough to write about. I am a firm believer that the highest good in life is learning, and the greatest evil is willful ignorance. The goal of everything on this site is to help inform you about our world, how we came to be here, and to understand how it all works. As I write these pages for you, I hope to not only explain to you what we know, think, and believe, but how we know it, and why we draw the conclusions we do. It is my hope that you find this interesting, informative, and accessible,” says Ethan

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