From The University of Manchester (UK) and The Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia [Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía] CSIC (ES) : “The start of the birth of planets in a binary star system observed”

U Manchester bloc

From The University of Manchester (UK)


The Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia [Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía] CSIC (ES)

The start of the birth of planets in a binary star system observed.

Artist’s impression of a binary protostar. Credit: L. Calçada/The European Southern Observatory [La Observatorio Europeo Austral] [Observatoire européen austral][Europaiche Sûdsternwarte] (EU)(CL).

10 March, 2022

Astronomers have observed primordial material that may be giving birth to three planetary systems around a binary star in unprecedented detail.

Bringing together three decades of study, an international group of scientists have observed a pair of stars orbiting each other, to reveal that these stars are surrounded by disks of gas and dust. Research published today in The Astrophysical Journal, shows the material within the newly discovered disks could be the beginnings of new planet systems which in the future orbit the binary stars.

Using the Very Large Array (VLA) and the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA), the scientific group has studied the binary star SVS 13, still in its embryonic phase.

This work has provided the best description available so far on a binary system in formation.

Models of planet formation suggest that planets form by the slow aggregation of ice and dust particles in protoplanetary disks around forming stars. Usually these models consider only single stars, such as the Sun. However, most stars form binary systems, in which two stars rotate around a common centre. Very little is yet known about how planets are born around these important twin star systems, in which the gravitational interaction between the two stars plays an essential role.

“Our results have revealed that each star has a disk of gas and dust around it and that, in addition, a larger disk is forming around both stars,” says Ana Karla Díaz-Rodríguez, a researcher at The Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia [Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía] – CSIC (ES) and The UK ALMA Regional Centre (UK-ARC) at The University of Manchester, who leads the work.

“This outer disk shows a spiral structure that is feeding matter into the individual disks, and in all of them planetary systems could form in the future. This is clear evidence for the presence of disks around both stars and the existence of a common disk in a binary system.”

The binary system SVS 13, consisting of two stellar embryos with a total mass similar to that of the Sun, is relatively close to us, about 980 light-years away in the Perseus molecular cloud allowing its detailed study. The two stars in the system are very close to each other, with a distance of only about ninety times that between the Earth and the Sun.

The work has made it possible to study the composition of gas, dust and ionized matter in the system. In addition, nearly thirty different molecules have been identified around both protostars, including thirteen complex organic molecules precursors of life (seven of them detected for the first time in this system). “This means that when planets begin to form around these two suns, the building blocks of life will be there,” says Ana Karla Díaz-Rodríguez (IAA-CSIC / UK-ARC).

The scientific team has used the observations of SVS 13 obtained by the VLA over thirty years, together with new data from ALMA, and has followed the motion of both stars over this period, which has allowed their orbit to be traced, as well as the geometry and orientation of the system, along with many fundamental parameters, such as the mass of the protostars, the mass of the disks, and their temperature. Gary Fuller of The University of Manchester, a collaborator on the project, says: “This work shows how careful, systematic studies of young stars can provide a remarkably detailed view of their structure and properties.“

“At the IAA we began studying this system twenty-five years ago. We were surprised when we discovered that SVS 13 was a radio binary, because only one star is seen in the optical. Normally, stellar embryos are detected in radio, but they only become visible at the end of the gestation process. It was very strange to discover a pair of twin stars where one of them seemed to have evolved much faster than the other. We designed several experiments to get more details and to find out if in such a case either of the stars could form planets. Now we have seen that both stars are very young, and that both can form planets,” says Guillem Anglada, a researcher at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA-CSIC) who is coordinating the studies of SVS 13.

SVS 13 has generated much debate in the scientific literature, as some studies consider it to be extremely young and others consider it to be in a later stage. This new study, probably the most complete study of a binary star system in formation, not only sheds light on the nature of the two protostars and their environment, but also provides crucial parameters for testing numerical simulations of the early stages of binary and multiple system formation.

See the full article here .


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Welcome to the Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía (IAA). The IAA is an institute of The Spanish National Research Council[Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) (ES). The activities of the IAA (CSIC) are related to research in the field of Astrophysics and the development of instruments for telescopes and space vehicles. These webpages are intended to present our activities as well as useful information both for other professional institutions devoted to astrophysics research as well as for those interested in learning something more about the IAA and astrophysics in general.

From the front page on, an explanation is provided of the structure and organization of the IAA, followed by general information concerning our technological and scientific research in addition to all the activities we consider of general interest.

The pages of each department provide basic information: the staff, research lines, projects under way and research results. The navigator will also find more specific and varied information on each of the individual pages of the IAA staff.

The IAA has as its general scientific objective to help increase the bulk of knowledge about our universe, from the closest at hand, our solar system, to an overall scale of the entire universe, improving descriptions and analysing the physical processes that take place there. The nature of this aim demands a multi-disciplinary approach, requiring a combination of theory, observation and technology in different areas of physics and engineering. Although the IAA is a centre for pursuing basic science, we are aware of the role that astrophysics plays as a user and producer of new technologies.

To achieve our overarching objective, different scientific programmes are being undertaken with specific aims and timetables, encompassing four large areas of astrophysics: the solar system; star formation, structure and evolution; galaxy structure and evolution; and cosmology. Basic science has been and continues to be the motor for training scientific and technical staff, as well as for stimulating the development of other disciplines. The history of the IAA clearly depicts the observational function of the centre.

The telescopes installed in the Observatorio de Sierra Nevada (OSN), reflect a scientific policy with the clear objective of ensuring continued access to observational means to undertake far-reaching scientific projects.

IAA Observatorio de Sierra Nevada

This fact adds singularity to the centre and at the same time offers the challenge and incentive for research at the IAA. The design and construction of instruments for the OSN, as well as others to be carried in special space vehicles, not only serve as support for basic research by the different teams of the IAA, but also represent activity of prime importance for the appropriate combination of research and development.

The Institute of Astrophysics of Andalusia [Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, IAA-CSIC] is a research institute funded by the High Council of Scientific Research of the Spanish government Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), and is located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. IAA activities are related to research in the field of astrophysics, and instrument development both for ground-based telescopes and for space missions. Scientific research at the Institute covers the solar system, star formation, stellar structure and evolution, galaxy formation and evolution and cosmology. The IAA was created as a CSIC research institute in July 1975. Presently, the IAA operates the Sierra Nevada Observatory, and (jointly with the also the The MPG Institute for Astronomy [MPG Institut für Astronomie](DE)) the Calar Alto Observatory.

Calar Alto Astronomical Observatory 3.5 meter Telescope, located in Almería province in Spain on Calar Alto, a 2,168-meter-high (7,113 ft) mountain in Sierra de Los Filabres(ES)
The Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía is divided in the following departments, each with an (incomplete) outline of research avenues and groups:

Department of Extragalactic Astronomy
Violent Stellar Formation Group
AMIGA Group (Analysis of the interstellar Medium of Isolated Galaxies)
Department of Stellar Physics
Department of Radio Astronomy and Galactic Structure
Stellar Systems Group
Department of Solar System

The technological needs of IAA’s research groups are fulfilled by the Instrumental and Technological Developments Unit

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The University of Manchester is ranked 33rd in the world by QS World University Rankings 2015-16. In the 2015 Academic Ranking of World Universities, Manchester is ranked 41st in the world and 5th in the UK. In an employability ranking published by Emerging in 2015, where CEOs and chairmen were asked to select the top universities which they recruited from, Manchester placed 24th in the world and 5th nationally. The Global Employability University Ranking conducted by THE places Manchester at 27th world-wide and 10th in Europe, ahead of academic powerhouses such as Cornell University, The University of Pennsylvania and The London School of Economics (UK) . It is ranked joint 56th in the world and 18th in Europe in the 2015-16 Times Higher Education World University Rankings. In the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, Manchester came fifth in terms of research power and seventeenth for grade point average quality when including specialist institutions. More students try to gain entry to the University of Manchester than to any other university in the country, with more than 55,000 applications for undergraduate courses in 2014 resulting in 6.5 applicants for every place available. According to the 2015 High Fliers Report, Manchester is the most targeted university by the largest number of leading graduate employers in the UK.

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Jodrell Bank campus, U Manchester part of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester (UK).

U Manchester Jodrell Bank Lovell Telescope.