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Amazing shadow inside a disk of a newly formed star is probably an exoplanet.
Scientists examining a young star called TW Hydrae believe that a peculiar shadow cast on the disk of dust and gas that engulf its outer atmosphere it likely to be an unseen exoplanet in the orbit of the disk itself.
It is estimated that TW Hydrae is around eight million years old and lies approximately 192 light years from the planet Earth. For the past eighteen years, it has been continuously photographed and observed using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope by researchers interested in what it can teach humanity about the forces to present within newly formed solar systems. Much of their work has concerned the disk of gas and dust in the outer reaches of the star’s atmosphere.
“What is surprising is that we can learn something about an unseen part of the disk by studying the disk’s outer region and by measuring the motion, location and behavior of a shadow, “said study lead author John Debes, of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, “Even these large disks, whose inner regions are unobservable, are still dynamic, or changing in detectable ways which we didn’t imagine.”
When analyzing the data, the research team identified an incredibly unusual shadow that rotated around the enormous disk roughly once every sixteen years. “This is the very first disk where we have so many images over such a long period, therefore allowing us to see this interesting effect, “said Debes. He went on to say that he believed that this shadow phenomenon might be quite common in infant stellar systems but that further research was needed to confirm that hypothesis.
According to Debes and the rest of the team, it is almost certain that the shadow is being caused by an exoplanet in orbit of the new star. They claim that it is unlikely that the planet itself is causing the shadow effect but that it appears as though the planet’s gravitational force is affecting the inner portion of the gas disk and thereby blocking the light heading towards the outer reaches. For the planet to cause this kind of effect, it must be approximately five times the size of Jupiter.
The researchers estimate that the planet is around 100 million miles away from the star, which is approximately the same distance as the planet Earth is to the Sun in the center of this solar system. Unfortunately, this fairly proximity means that the Hubble Telescope is not able to capture a clear image of exoplanet owing to the powerful beams of light emanating from the infant star.
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