The disk surrounding the young star TW Hydrae is regarded as a prototypical example of planetary nurseries. Due to its comparatively close proximity of 176 light-years, the object plays a key role in cosmological birth models.
The birthplace of planets: New measurements that Thomas Henning from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg assisted in carrying out have resulted in a greater mass for the disk of gas and dust surrounding the young star TW Hydrae than previously assumed. The illustration depicts an artist’s conception of the disk. © Axel M. Quetz (MPIA)
Using the Herschel Space Telescope, researchers including Thomas Henning from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg have, for the first time, determined the mass of the disk very precisely. The new value is larger than previous estimates and proves that planets similar to those of our solar system can form in this system. In addition, the observations are an example of how, in the world of science, not everything can be planned for.Where Egyptologists have their Rosetta Stone and geneticists their Drosophila fruit flies, astronomers studying planet formation have TW Hydrae: A readily accessible sample object with the potential to provide foundations for an entire area of study. TW Hydrae is a young star with about the same mass as the Sun. It is surrounded by a protoplanetary disk: a disk of dense gas and dust in which small grains of ice and dust clump to form larger objects and, eventually, into planets. This is how our Solar System came into being more than 4 billion years ago.
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Prof. Dr. Thomas Henning | Max-Planck-Institute
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