Thanks to the combined use of two powerful Hawaiian telescopes, a group of astronomers, led by Thayne Currie, have captured what they are describing as incredible images of a planetary system that is still in the process of being born.
We know that when stars form, there is a rotating disk of dust, rocks and gas around them. It is believed that planetary accumulation occurs when the particles in the disk collide with each other, growing increasingly due to gravity, collecting more and more material from the orbital path, and eventually forming a planet.
In this context, the previous images taken from the star system is LkCa 15, a young Sun-like T-Tauri star 473 light years away, three planets in this system had been detected. These were three ‘super-Jupiter’ planets, a celestial body of up to 13 masses of Jupiter (the equivalent of 4,133 times the mass of the Earth). The problem is that in the new images obtained by the Currie team, these do not appear. Even so, this is not a bad thing nor does it mean that planets are not forming.
The new technique used by the experts demonstrates a greater precision with respect to the previous methods, something that could allow a more precise detection of planets in formation in the future, and a deeper understanding of this process.
“LkCa 15 is a highly complex system,” Currie explains in a statement. “Before analyzing our data from the Keck and Subaru telescopes and given the same opening masking data above, we would also have concluded that LkCa 15 has three superjovian planets detected. But that does not mean there are no planets there. There are probably, but they are a bit smaller and dimmer than we can detect: the size of Jupiter or Saturn, perhaps, rather than huge super-Jupiter. And, if we could find them, they could help us better understand the process of planetary formation, not only in general, but in regard to our own system.”
The results have been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
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