Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Astronomers find grains of sand around distant stars

14.03.2008
Study provides clues about the formation of Earth-like planets

In a find that sheds light on how Earth-like planets may form, astronomers this week reported finding the first evidence of small, sandy particles orbiting a newborn solar system at about the same distance as the Earth orbits the sun. The report will be published online this week by the journal Nature.

"Precisely how and when planets form is an open question," said study co-author Christopher Johns-Krull, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University. "We believe the disk-shaped clouds of dust around newly formed stars condense, forming microscopic grains of sand that eventually go on to become pebbles, boulders and whole planets."

In previous studies, astronomers have used infrared heat signals to identify microscopic dust particles around distant stars, but the method isn't precise enough to tell astronomers just how big they become, and whether the particles orbit near the star, like the Earth does the sun, or much further away at a distance more akin to Jupiter or Saturn.

In the new study, Johns-Krull and co-authors in the United States, Germany and Uzbekistan used reflected light from the sand itself to confirm the Earth-like orbit of grainy particles around a pair of stars called KH-15D in the constellation Monoceros. The stars are about 2,400 light years from Earth in the Cone Nebula, and they are only about 3 million years old, compared to the sun's 4.5 billion years.

"We were attracted to this system because it appears bright and dim at different times, which is odd," Johns-Krull said.

The researchers found that the Earth has a nearly edge-on view of KH-15D. From this perspective, the disk blocks one of the stars from view, but its twin has an eccentric orbit that causes it to rise above the disk at regular intervals.

"These eclipses let us study the system with the star there and with the star effectively not there," Johns-Krull said. "It's a very fortuitous arrangement because when the star is there all the time, it's so bright that we can't see the sand."

The team conducted both photometric and spectrographic analyses of data collected during the past 12 years from a dozen observatories, including the McDonald Observatory in west Texas, the Keck Observatory in Hawaii and the VLT on Mount Paranal in Chile.

"Because of how the light is being reflected there are opportunities to make observations about the chemical composition of these sand-like particles," said co-author William Herbst, an astronomer at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn. "That's very exciting because it opens up so many doors for new type of research on this disk."

Jade Boyd | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.rice.edu
http://www.wesleyan.edu/newsrel/kh15d_animation.html

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fraunhofer ISE Pushes World Record for Multicrystalline Silicon Solar Cells to 22.3 Percent

25.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance

25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

An international team of physicists a coherent amplification effect in laser excited dielectrics

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>