December 1, 2023

Space telescope discovers key to planet formation

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Research has gained new insight into planet formation. The James Webb Telescope shows what happens in protoplanetary disks.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Science has a fairly complex hypothesis about planetary formation. Using the James Webb Telescope (JWST), scientists can now confirm a key aspect of this hypothesis. The James Webb Space Telescope has detected large amounts of cold water vapor in the inner region of protoplanetary disks. Experts conclude that ice-covered rock fragments that migrate inward from the outer regions of the disk are the “nucleus of planet formation.”

To understand how science arrived at this conclusion, one must understand the theory of planetary formation. It’s all about the so-called protoplanetary disk orbiting a young star. It consists of rock fragments of different sizes surrounding the star. Parts in the far outer area of ​​the disc are frozen. These ice fragments gradually move towards the star due to friction in the gaseous disk.

The James Webb Space Telescope looked at the protoplanetary disks of many stars to learn more about how planets form. (Technical impression) © NASA, ESA, CSA, Joseph Olmsted (STScI)

Planets form from pieces of rock found in protoplanetary disks

When frozen rock fragments move beyond the so-called “snow line” and remain in warmer regions, their ice sublimates into water vapor and releases large amounts of it. This is exactly what was observed by the Large Space Telescope operated by NASA, ESA and the Canadian Space Agency.

“Webb finally discovered the relationship between water vapor in the inner disk and ice chunks drifting from the outer disk,” says study leader Andrea Panzati of Texas State University. “This discovery opens exciting horizons for studying the formation of rocky planets in Webb.” The results of the study were In the specialized magazine Astrophysical Journal Letters published.

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Previously, people had a fixed picture of the planet’s composition

recalls his co-author Colette Salek (Vassar College) in one notice “A very consistent picture of planet formation” that has been around for a long time. “It’s as if there were isolated regions from which planets formed,” she explains. The researcher continues: “Now we already have evidence that these regions can interact with each other. This is something that is also said to have happened in our solar system. (unpaid bill)

Automated assistance was used in writing this article by the editorial team. The article was carefully examined by editor Tanya Banner before publication.