Washington DC: As per a recent study, a nearby Sun-like star may have its own planet in an Earth-like orbit someday.
New images from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) reveal never-before-seen details in the planet-forming disk around a nearby Sun-like star, including a tantalizing gap at the same distance from the star as the Earth is from the Sun.
This structure may mean that an infant version of our home planet, or possibly a more massive "super-Earth," is beginning to form there.
The star, TW Hydrae, is a popular target of study for astronomers because of its proximity to Earth (approximately 175 light-years away) and its status as a veritable newborn (about 10 million years old). It also has a face-on orientation as seen from Earth. This affords astronomers a rare, undistorted view of the complete disk.
Lead author Sean Andrews said that the new ALMA images show the disk in unprecedented detail, revealing a series of concentric dusty bright rings and dark gaps, including intriguing features that suggest a planet with an Earth-like orbit is forming there.
Other pronounced gap features are located 3 billion and 6 billion kilometers from the central star, similar to the distances from the Sun to Uranus and Pluto in our own Solar System. They too are likely the result of particles that came together to form planets, which then swept their orbits clear of dust and gas and shepherded the remaining material into well-defined bands.
The study is published in Astrophysical Journal Letters.