Extrasolar planet formation sheds new light on other planetary systems
Washington: Researchers has found evidence that an extrasolar planet may be forming quite far from its star-about twice the distance Pluto is from our Sun.
The planet lies inside a dusty, gaseous disk around a small red dwarf TW Hydrae, which is only about 55 percent of the mass of the Sun.
The discovery adds to the ever-increasing variety of planetary systems in the Milky Way.
This dusty protoplanetary disk is the closest one to us, some 176 light-years away in the constellation Hydra.
The astronomers made Hubble Space Telescope observations over a wide range of wavelengths from visible to near infrared and modeled the color and structure of the disk in a way that has not been done before.
"TW Hydrae is between 5 and 10 million years old, and should be in the final throes of planet formation before its disk dissipates," coauthor Alycia Weinberger of the Carnegie Institution and principal investigator of the observations, said.
"It is surprising to find a planet only 5 to 10 percent of Jupiter's mass forming so far out since planets should form faster closer in. In all planet formation scenarios, it's difficult to make a low-mass planet far away from a low-mass star," she added.
The research is set to be published in the Astrophysical Journal.