Scientists observe budding solar systems

Scientists have observed, for the first time ever, the processes that give rise to stars and planets in nascent solar systems.

Updated: Jun 11, 2010, 19:09 PM IST

Washington: Scientists have observed, for the first time ever, the processes that give rise to stars and planets in nascent solar systems.

The discoveries, appearing in the Astrophysical Journal, provide a better understanding of the way hydrogen gas from the protoplanetary disk is incorporated into the star.

By coupling both Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea in Hawaii with a specifically engineered instrument named ASTRA (Astrometry and phase-Referenced Astronomy), University of Arizona astronomer Joshua Eisner and his colleagues were able to peer deeply into protoplanetary disks -swirling clouds of gas and dust that feed the growing star in its centre and eventually coalesce into planets and asteroids to form a solar system.

Combining the Keck interferometer with the spectro-astrometry technique, Eisner and his collaborators were able to distinguish between the distributions of gas, mostly made up of hydrogen, and dust, thereby resolving the disk`s features.
"We were able to get really, really close to the star and look right at the interface between the gas-rich protoplanetary disk and the star," said Eisner, who serves as project scientist on the ASTRA team.

He added: "We want to understand how material accretes onto the star.

"This process has never been measured directly."

ANI