Cosmic butterfly or interstellar burger? This planet forming disk is the largest disk ever seen

The largest planetary construction site ever seen, spanning hundreds of billions of miles in size, could be cast in a giant shadow that accentuates its strange appearance. In short, it’s like a cosmic butterfly – and, for years, it was ignored.

The object, known as IRAS 23077+6707, was first cataloged as an infrared emission source by the Infrared Astronomy Satellite (IRAS) in the 1980s. Then in 2016, while surveying active galaxies in the region of the Cepheus constellation, it was serendipitously rediscovered by astronomer Ciprian Berghea of ​​the US Naval Observatory with the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS).

Berghea didn’t know for sure what it was, but it looked like two parallel lobes with a dark lane between them – typical of edge-on planet-forming discs. Bright parts in such an object represent scattered light from dust in the upper layers of the disc, and the dark lane is our lane. Solar systemand ecliptic plane, where most of the matter is concentrated. It is this dense mass of matter that blocks and absorbs the light of a system’s central star. The upper and lower planes of the disk gradually spread apart from showing a sharp edge, and two filaments trace those flared parts, which are also flared. Because of all this, the arrangement looks very similar to a butterfly – but, in a way, those bright regions split by a dark lane suggest that it is also a hamburger. Thus, in keeping with his Romanian heritage growing up near Transylvania, Berghea nicknamed IRAS 23077+6707 Dracula’s Chivito,” a chivito that was a hamburger-like sandwich from his homeland.

Related: A cosmic ‘sandwich’ theory could explain how smaller planets form

Now, thanks to observations with the Submillimeter Array (SMA) in Hawaii, astronomers including Berghea have confirmed that this particular chivito seen from the edge is a planet-forming disk, but not an ordinary disk. It is the largest planet-forming disk ever seen.

“What we found was incredible – evidence that this is the largest planet-forming disk ever discovered. It is extremely rich in dust and gas, which we know are the building blocks of planets,” Kristina said. Monsch, astronomer at Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, ia statement. Monch is the lead author of one of two new papers describing the disc.

To give a sense of the scale of this particular global construction yard, astronomers assume that it sits somewhere between 800 and 1,000 light year away based on the fact that it is located in the sky close to the Cepheus star formation region. If correct, the angular size of the disk in our sky corresponds to the radius of the disk as miles astronomical units (AU). To provide additional context, one AU is defined as the average distance between World and the Sunor 149.6 million kilometers (93 million miles), being the outermost known planet, Neptuneit is 30 AU from our sun.

“From the SMA data we can also measure the dust and gas in this planetary nursery, which we found contains enough material to form many giant planets – and out to distances more than 300 times greater out is the distance between the sun and the sun. Jupiter!” said Monsch.

In addition, the disk is rotating. The SMA measured radio waves emitted by carbon monoxide gas within the disc, and some of these radio waves were redshifted, indicating that they are emitted by gas clouds moving away from us; Meanwhile, the submillimetre radio waves from carbon monoxide in other parts of the disk have been blue-shifted, meaning they are moving towards us. This behavior is a hallmark of a rotating system.

“The data from the SMA provides us with the smoking gun evidence that … it is orbiting a star two to four times more massive than our own sun,” Monsch said. falls in and accumulates on him.

In addition to the gargantuan size of the disk, another strange feature is that the western lobe of the disk is significantly dimmer than the other lobe by a factor of six. Monsch, Berghea and their colleagues aren’t sure why that is, but are considering several possibilities. One strong candidate is that it is just an illusion that the two halves are uneven in brightness, a geometric effect due to the fact that the disk is not perfectly peripheral to us so we can see slightly more of the eastern half than the see west. .

But there is also another explanation, which is that half of the disc lies in shadow.

This assumes that the disc, rather than being pregnant with planet potential, has already given birth and a giant planet is now plowing through the disc. This planet may be sweeping up raw material as it grows, carving an annular path, or gap, in the disc in the process.

Such a gap would effectively split the disc, causing instability that would make the disc inside become like an over-bent vinyl record. This misalignment would block some of the light from the young central star, resulting in the inner disk casting a shadow over the outer disk. Therefore, the asymmetry in the brightness of the studied disk could be indirect evidence for the presence of a giant planet. It is fitting that IRAS 23077+6707 bears some resemblance to the shape of a butterfly; as a caterpillar enters a chrysalis and emerges as a butterfly, a chrysalis can enable a protoplanetary disk of gas and dust — remnants of ancient generations stars — reform and blossom into cosmic butterflies of a new planet.

Related Stories:

—The mystery of how strange cosmic objects known as ‘JuMBOs’ went rogue

– Surprise! Children’s exoplanets may look like Smarties candies rather than spheres

— James Webb Space Telescope view of Earendel, the most distant known star in the universe

And, after all that, the question arises whether IRAS 23077+6707 exists. Computer simulations predict that we should see more planet-forming discs than we actually do – so are there more supermassive discs out there that we haven’t identified yet?

The observations of IRAS 23077+6707 are reported in two papers, one published on May 14 in The Astrophysical Journal Lettersand another which has been accepted for publication in a future issue of the same journal.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *