Using NASAs Spitzer Space Telescope, a team of astronomers led by the University of Rochester has detected gaps ringing the dusty disks around two very young stars, which suggests that gas-giant planets have formed there. A year ago, these same researchers found evidence of the first "baby planet" around a young star, challenging most astrophysicistss models of giant-planet formation.
The new findings in the Sept. 10 issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters not only reinforce the idea that giant planets like Jupiter form much faster than scientists have traditionally expected, but one of the gas-enshrouded stars, called GM Aurigae, is analogous to our own solar system. At a mere 1 million years of age, the star gives a unique window into how our own world may have come into being.
"GM Aurigae is essentially a much younger version of our Sun, and the gap in its disk is about the same size as the space occupied by our own giant planets," says Dan Watson, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester and leader of the Spitzer IRS Disks research team. "Looking at it is like looking at baby pictures of our Sun and outer solar system," he says.
Jonathan Sherwood | EurekAlert!
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