Studying the motions of gas in a protoplanetary disc around an infant star, astronomers have been able to identify areas of interaction that strongly imply the presence of three large planets, the first detected by the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array. Image: ESO, ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO); Pinte et al.
Two teams of astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array – ALMA – have spotted three newly formed planets orbiting an infant star in its dusty protoplanetary disc. It is the first detection of its kind.
Confirming the presence of young worlds in such dust-shrouded discs is difficult, but the teams, working independently, used a novel technique to spot the otherwise hidden worlds: studying unusual patterns in the flow of carbon monoxide molecules swirling around the star.
“Measuring the flow of gas within a protoplanetary disc gives us much more certainty that planets are present around a young star,” said Christophe Pinte of Monash University in Australia and Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble in France, lead author of a paper describing the discovery. “This technique offers a promising new direction to understand how planetary systems form.”
Richard Teague, an astronomer at the University of Michigan and author of a second paper, ...