An artist's impression of the disc and gas streams around HD 142527. Astronomers have seen vast streams of gas flowing across the gap in the disc. These are the first direct observations of these streams, which are expected to be created by giant planets guzzling gas as they grow.(Photo: M. Kornmesser, ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)
How do jumbo planets such as Jupiter form? Astronomers may have
caught one in a nearby solar system being born, offering an answer.
pair of dusty filaments stretch more than 7.4 billion miles across the
length of the solar system of nearby star HD14252, feeding a young
planet's growth in a manner never seen before, report radio astronomers
led by Simon Casassus of Chile's Universidad de Chile in Santiago.
team used Chile's new Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array
(ALMA) to take a close look at the dust disks swirling around the star.
The find supports a theory that instabilities in such disks surrounding
young stars build up to grow giant planets in a snowballing fashion.
and theorists have been waiting for decades for ALMA to be built and
begin operations, and this early discovery shows that the wait has been
well worthwhile," says planetary scientist Alan Boss, author of The Crowded Universe: The Race to Find Life Beyond Earth. "This is great stuff!" he says, by e-mail.
The Nature journal
study reports a Jupiter-size planet is likely forming about 90 times
farther away from the star than Earth's orbital distance from the sun.
Boss suggests that other giant planets have likely already formed around
the star, clearing a central dust-free ring around HD 14252.