The enormity of space is difficult to understand. Although humans have made countless astronomical discoveries, in reality everything that can be seen today constitutes less than five percent of the universe, according to Space.com. That said, any discovery remains a feat for modern science, particularly the discovery of a strange planet. Earlier this week, two teams of astronomers announced the discovery of three baby planets in our galaxy.
The discovery was made using the Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope, located in Chile. According to its website, ALMA is an international association between the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the United States, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the Republic of Chile. According to the European Southern Observatory, it is the most powerful telescope that observes the cold universe (that is, to observe the molecular gas and dust, not the universe * hip *). The device is valued at around $ 1.5 billion, according to CNBC.
ALMA has been in operation for about five years, but this week is the first time the telescope discovers new planets. Much of this is due, in part, to a new technique never used before. The astronomers observed the gas flow and carefully identified unusual or atypical patterns in such. The patterns, observable within a planet-forming disk around a young star, were verified by two teams of astronomers who possess "tell-tale hallmarks of newly formed planets orbiting a child star," according to the official report. Astronomers examined the density of carbon monoxide inside the disk and observed the wavelengths of light emitted by the gas molecules. This indicated how the gas moved. The atypical movement within the gas flow is a sign that it was in contact with a massive object.
"Measuring the gas flow within a protoplanetary disk gives us much more certainty that planets are present around a young star," explained Christophe Pinte, lead author of one of the two articles and professor from the University of Monash in Australia; and Institute of Planning and Astrophysics of Grenoble (University of Grenoble-Alpes / CNRS) in France, in a press release.
Each team of astronomers analyzed the ALMA observations of a juvenile star called HD 163296. It is about 330 light-years from Earth, in the constellation of Sagittarius (not to be confused with the astrological sign). Interestingly, HD 163296 has twice the mass of the sun, but it is only four million years old, one thousandth of the sun's age.
"We observed the localized movement of small-scale gas in the protoplanetary disk of the star.This completely new approach could discover some of the youngest planets in our galaxy, all thanks to the high-resolution images of ALMA," he explained. Richard Teague, astronomer at the University of Michigan and lead author of the other document, in the aforementioned press release. .
The team, led by Dr. Teague discovered two of the planets, located approximately 12 billion and 21 billion kilometers from the star. The other team, led by Dr. Pinte, identified the other planet, located about 39 billion miles from the star. Both teams used modifications of the same technique, which looks for aberrations in the gas flow, something indicated by the change of the wavelengths of the emission of carbon monoxide. This indicates that the gas is in contact with a massive object.
Dr. Teague's technique derived average variations in gas flow from just a small percentage. He was able to reveal the impact of multiple objects on the gas activity near the star. Dr. Pinte's technique took a more direct approach, measuring the gas flow. It is said that the latter is more suitable for studying the external portions of a disk, and allowed researchers to more accurately place the third planet. Both researchers were able to identify areas where gas flow was not synchronized with their environment.
"The measurement of gas flow within a protoplanetary disk gives us much more certainty that planets are present around a young star," Dr. Pinte added. "This technique offers a promising new direction to understand how planetary systems are formed."