The image of ‘Eye of Sauron’ shows that a disk is forming around an alien planet | News from science and technology


Scientists have captured an image of a circumstellar disk and in it a planet with a moon-forming disk that looks like the Eye of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings film franchise.

Observations of the system, nearly 400 light-years away in the constellation Centaurus, show a planet within the circumstellar disk called PDS 70c, which has another disk around it that is about 500 times larger than that of Saturn.

The exoplanet was first imaged directly using infrared wavelengths in 2019, but a new observation of the Atacama Large Millimeter / Submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile has revealed the construction in even greater detail.

A close-up of the moon-forming disk around PDS 70c. Image: ESO

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has made it clear that the ring visible in the “Eye of Sauron” picture is not the new planetary disc, which is only visible as a light spot in the picture above.

PDS 70c is one of two Jupiter-like planets orbiting the star, but until recently astronomers were unsure whether or not disks formed around the gas giants.

“Our work shows a clear recognition of a disk in which satellites could form,” explained Dr. Myriam Benisty, who led the research published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

“Our ALMA observations were recorded with such excellent resolution that we could clearly identify that the disk is connected to the planet and we can narrow down its size for the first time,” added Dr. Benisty added.

To date, astronomers have discovered more than 4,000 exoplanets – planets orbiting distant stars – but all have been discovered in mature systems.

The two planets PDS 70b and PSD 70c are the first discovered planets that are still in the formation process – that is, they offer astronomers insights into the formation of planets and the formation of moons.

Radio telescopic antennas of the ALMA project (Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array) in the Chajnantor Plateau, Atacama Desert, about 1500 km north of Santiago, on March 12, 2013. The ALMA, an international partnership project between Europe, North America and East Asia with the participation of Chile, is currently the largest astronomical project in the world. On Wednesday, March 13th, 59 high-precision antennas will be opened at 5000 meters above sea level in the extremely dry Atacama Desert. AFP PH
ALMA’s radio telescopes are located high up in the Chilean Atacama Desert

Planets are believed to form in the dusty disks surrounding young stars and carve voids into these disks as they devour material to grow.

In this way, the planets can receive their own disks that help them grow by regulating the amount of material that falls on them.

“At the same time, gas and dust in the circumplanetary disk can come together through multiple collisions to form larger and larger bodies, which ultimately leads to the birth of moons,” explained the ESO, although these processes are not yet fully understood.

The PDS system “offers us a unique opportunity to observe and study the processes of planet and satellite formation,” said ESO research fellow Stefano Facchini.

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