A team of astronomers found that Super-Earths and Neptune-sized planets could be forming around young stars in the Taurus Star-Forming Region.
The University of Arizona explains that some 4.6 billion years ago, the solar system was a protoplanetary disk with no discernable features. When some parts of it began to coalesce into clumps of matter, future planets, they picked up material while travelling around the sun and started to leave patterns of gaps and rings into the protoplanetary disk. This disk became the arranged solar system today.
Using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, or ALMA, comprising 45 radio antennas in Chile’s Atacama Desert, the team performed a survey of young stars in the Taurus star-forming region. The Taurus star-forming region is a vast cloud of gas and dust 450 light years from Earth.
The prescence of nascent planets
The researchers imaged 32 stars surrounded by protoplanetary disks, they found that 12 of them have rings and gaps that can be best explained by the presence of nascent planets.
Feng Long is the lead author of the paper and a doctoral student at the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University in Bejing, China. Long said: “This is fascinating because it is the first time that exoplanet statistics, which suggest that super-Earths and Neptunes are the most common type of planets, coincide with observations of protoplanetary disks.”
The paper’s second author Paola Pinilla, a NASA Hubble Fellow at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory, said: “Our findings leave nascent planets as the most likely cause of the patterns we observed, although some other processes may also be at work.”
Understanding planet formation
Long added: “Our results are an exciting step in understanding this key phase of planet formation, and by making these adjustments, we are hoping to better understand the origins of the rings and gaps.”