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Star Pair’s Dusty Disk Shines Light on Planet Formation

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Posted April 7, 2015

Astronomers using the Gemini South telescope in Chile have discovered striking new evidence for planet formation in a dusty disk surrounding a pair of stars in Sagittarius.

The team took advantage of an offering for Early Science using the Gemini Planet Imager to study infrared light scattered off dust grains in the disk around the binary system V4046 Sgr.

Left: J-band polarized intensity (P⊥) images. Right: P⊥ scaled by r2, where r is the distance in pixels from the central binary, corrected for projection effects. Both images are shown on a linear scale and oriented north up and east left. The coronagraph is represented by the black filled circles.

Left: J-band polarized intensity (P⊥) images. Right: P⊥ scaled by r2, where r is the distance in pixels from the central binary, corrected for projection effects. Both images are shown on a linear scale and oriented north up and east left. The coronagraph is represented by the black filled circles.

“The Gemini Planet Imager allows us to study nearby planet forming disks in sufficient detail that we can obtain direct-image evidence for young planets in orbits similar to those of the giant planets in our own solar system,” says Valerie Rapson of the Rochester Institute of Technology, who led the research team.

Indeed, the GPI imaging reveals an intriguing double ring structure around the V4046 Sgr binary that is most likely due to the formation of a giant planet (or planets) at some 4-12 times the Earth-Sun distance (approximately between Jupiter and Uranus, if orbiting our Sun).

“This is perhaps the best such evidence yet for planet formation so close to a binary system,” says Rapson. Analysis of the data also indicates that the dust grains orbiting the star are sorted by particle size, as predicted by recent planet formation models.

The result is published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters and the preprint is at https://arxiv.org/abs/1503.06192

Source: Gemini

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