Swirling gases reveal baby planets in a young star’s disk | Science News

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Swirling gases reveal baby planets in a young star’s disk

A new technique is more precise than relying on certain gaps that only hint at a planet

11:00am, June 14, 2018
artist's illustration of an infant planet

PLANETARY NURSERY  This artist’s impression shows an infant planet as it swirls gas and dust around itself while orbiting a young star.

Baby planets growing in a disk of gas and dust around an infant star have been identified and weighed for the first time. In papers published June 13 in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, two teams of astronomers describe a new technique to observe the newborn planets with unprecedented precision.

One team, led by Richard Teague of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, found two protoplanets about the mass of Jupiter in orbit around a young star called HD 163296. The star is about 4 million years old and about 330 light-years from Earth. Another team led by Christophe Pinte of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, spotted a third protoplanet about twice Jupiter’s mass in an even farther orbit around the same star.

Both groups used data from ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array network of

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