Astronomers find evidence of miniature solar systems in our galaxyNovember 21st, 2007 - 1:25 pm ICT by admin
Edinburgh , Nov 21: A new research by astronomers has found evidence for the existence of raw material for the beginning of miniature versions of our solar system.
According to the study by Dr Alexander Scholz, an astronomer from the University of St Andrews in Edinburgh, the birthplace of planets exist not only around young stars, but also around planemos (Planetary mass objects), that are not much larger or heavier than Jupiter.
This may imply the existence of miniature solar systems with a central object having only about 1% of the mass of the Sun.
But since their discovery in 2000, the nature and origin of planemos, has been more of a mystery because of the uncertainty that whether they are tiny stars or giant planets kicked out from a young planetary system.
The new study suggests that the former scenario is more likely.
For the research, Dr Scholz and Professor Jayawardhana from the University of Toronto , used the Spitzer Space Telescope to observe 18 planemos in a star cluster in Orion that is about 3 million years old. At that age many young stars are still surrounded by disks of dust and gas which may evolve into planetary systems.
The new observations show that about one third of the planemos are also surrounded by dusty disks, thus these relatively small objects seem to have a star-like infancy.
“The results demonstrate that long-lived dusty disks, the nurseries of planets, are commonly found even around extremely low-mass objects. This could indicate that planetary systems may form even when the central ’star’ is not a star, but a planemo,” explains Dr Scholz. “Imagine a solar system where planets encircle an object which itself is not much larger than a planet,” he adds.
Although the new findings have not settled the origins of planemos, researchers believe that the results bring us one step closer.
“How puny an object could nature produce in the same way that it made our Sun? That’s the big question motivating our research. The answer will tell us a lot about the star formation process as well as about the true diversity of planetary systems out there,” said Professor Jayawardhana.
Though evidence for a star-like formation of planemos has been presented previously by other teams, the new observations constitute the first systematic survey and push the knowledge of planemos into new territory. (ANI)
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