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Waspie_Dwarf

Spiral Structure of Disk May Reveal Planets

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Spiral Structure of Disk May Reveal Planets

An international team of astronomers has used HiCIAO (High Contrast Instrument for the Subaru Next Generation Optics) to observe a disk around the young star SAO 206462. They succeeded in capturing clear, detailed images of its disk, which they discovered has a spiral structure with two discernable arms. On the basis of their observations and modeling according to spiral density wave theory, the team suspects that dynamic processes, possibly resulting from planets in the disk, may be responsible for its spiral shape. This research may provide the basis for another indirect method of detecting planets.

Scientists have known that planets form in a broad disk of dust and gas surrounding a star, a so-called "protoplanetary disk." However, the composition of these special disks as well as the process by which they give rise to planets have remained a mystery. The bright light of a central star makes it difficult to detect fainter objects around it or to capture a detailed image of the composition of the disk itself. Recent research with HiCIAO, Subaru Telecope's "planet-hunter", has overcome some of those obstacles. By masking the bright light from the central star, the instrument can then detect more detailed features of the star's disk and the objects that it contains.

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