Which exoplanet orbits a solar star

Dust vortex around star - exoplanet in the making

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January 22, 2021, 11:36 p.m.

An international team of astronomers led by researchers from the Netherlands and with the participation of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn has discovered a whirlwind of dust in orbit around a young star. A press release from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, Bonn.

Schematic view of the vortex with a possibly emerging exoplanet around the star HD 163296. The bright yellowish area at the top right shows an area with warm dust and granules with a high probability for the formation of a new planet.
(Image: J. Varga et al.)
January 21, 2021 - It is possible that a new planet is forming in this material. The team of scientists made the discovery during the special observation time with a new instrument that is made available to the developers and builders as a reward for their work.

The results are published in the journal "Astronomy & Astrophysics".

A possibly emerging extrasolar planet or exoplanet orbits the star HD 163296 in a narrow orbit. HD 163296 is a young star regularly explored by astronomers in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius (Sagittarius) about 330 light years away. In previous studies, researchers have found signs of the formation of three large exoplanets in extensive orbits around this star. Now a fourth planet could possibly be added much closer to the star itself.

The research team, led by Jozsef Varga from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, examined the star over five nights in March and June 2019. They aimed their telescope at the inner part of the dust and particle disk around the star. The astronomers found a ring of warm fine dust at a distance from the star equal to the distance of the innermost planet Mercury from the sun. The most noticeable thing was that part of the ring appears much brighter, i.e. hotter, than the rest. This hot area appears to be orbiting the star in about a month.

The researchers suspect that the hot area represents a vortex in the disk around the star, from which a new planet could form. You can support this assumption by comparing them with numerical simulations. While dust and granules clump together in the rest of the disc, the material in the vortex appears as fine dust. This fine dust becomes visible in the hot spot.

The MATISSE instrument on ESO's “Very Large Telescope Interferometer” (VLTI) on Cerro Paranal in Chile during installation. MATISSE enables the imaging and spectroscopy of cosmic objects at high resolution for the exploration of the areas around young stars in which planets form as well as the areas around supermassive black holes in the centers of galaxies.
(Image: ESO / P. Horálek)
The astronomers made their discovery with the help of the new MATISSE instrument. This instrument combines and analyzes the light from four individual telescopes of the Very Large Telescope (VLT) of the European Southern Observatory on Cerro Paranal in northern Chile. The combination creates a virtual telescope with a diameter of 200 meters. The MATISSE instrument was specially designed for the analysis of infrared radiation. This radiation occurs when a cosmic object such as a planet or a disk of dust radiates heat. The instrument must be cooled to prevent it from emitting infrared radiation itself.

“This first scientific result marks the starting point for further research for our team. One of the goals is the investigation of other stars with dust disks and especially those in which earth-like planets can arise, ”concludes Gerd Weigelt from the MPIfR in Bonn, who has been involved in the development of MATISSE for many years as head of the infrared interferometry research group at the institute .

Additional Information:
MATISSE was designed, financed and built in close cooperation with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) as part of a consortium of research institutes from France (INSU-CNRS in Paris and OCA in Nice, the institute of the PI team), Germany (MPIA, MPIfR and University of Kiel), the Netherlands (NOVA and University of Leiden), and Austria (University of Vienna). The Konkoly Observatory (Hungary) and the University of Cologne also contributed to the development of the instrument.

The research team includes Gerd Weigelt, Karl-Heinz Hofmann, Dieter Schertl, Matthias Heiniger, Udo Beckmann, Claus Connot and Eddy Nussbaum, all employees at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy.

Original publication
The asymmetric inner disk of the Herbig Ae star HD 163296 in the eyes of VLTI / MATISSE: evidence for a vortex?
J. Varga et al. Accepted for publication for Astronomy & Astrophysics (DOI: 10.1051 / 0004-6361 / 202039400).
The asymmetric inner disk of the Herbig Ae star HD 163296 in the eyes of VLTI / MATISSE: evidence for a vortex?
J. Varga et al. Preprint on the arXiv server.

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Source: Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy