Telescope reveals how planets form

Telescope reveals how planets form

For a long time, it has been suggested that icy “pebbles” in the cold outer regions of protoplanetary disks underlie planetary formation. Now this theory has finally been confirmed.

How do the planets see daylight? It’s a pressing question that astronomers have been pondering for some time. Fortunately, scientists have now developed a groundbreaking theory to explain this problem. Although until recently it remained just a theory. Now, the James Webb Space Telescope has witnessed this process, allowing us to finally know for sure how planets are born.

the theory
For some time, theories have suggested that icy “pebbles” in the cold outer regions of protoplanetary disks (the same region where comets form in our solar system) are the building blocks for planetary formation. According to this belief, these icy particles drift from the cold outer regions of the disk towards the newborn star. The theory states that when these pebbles enter the warmer region near the star, they will release large amounts of cold water vapor, delivering water and solids to the developing planets.

James Webb
More importantly, theory predicts that ice pebbles should release large amounts of cold water vapor upon entering the warmer zone (where ice turns to steam). This is exactly what the Webb Telescope has now observed. By observing water vapor in protoplanetary disks, Webb confirmed that ice particles drift from the outer parts of protoplanetary disks into the region of rocky planets. breakthrough. “Webb finally showed how water vapor in the inner disk is related to the drift of ice pebbles from the outer disk,” says study leader Andrea Panzati. “This opens up exciting possibilities for studying the formation of rocky planets using WEB.”

The researchers made the discovery after studying four disks — two compressed and two extended — around Sun-like stars using Webb’s MIRI (Mid-Infrared Instrument). The age of all four stars is estimated to be between two million and three million years, which is considered newborn in cosmic terms.

An artist’s conception of two planet-forming disks around newborn stars resembling the Sun. On the left we see a CD and on the right we see an extended disk with slots. Image: NASA, ESA, CSA, Joseph Olmstead (STScI)

The purpose of Webb’s observations was to see if CDs contained more water in their rocky interior. This will happen if the gravel is delivered in a more efficient manner, with plenty of bulk and water. The team used MIRI’s MRS (moderate resolution spectrometer) because that instrument is good at detecting water vapor.

The results confirmed what was expected. Researchers have already found an excess of cold water in CDs. “It’s now clear that there’s an excess of cold water,” Panzati says. “This is exceptional and is entirely due to Webb’s improved accuracy.”

Thanks to the study published in the journal Astrophysical Journal LettersNow we know for sure how planets form. “In the past we had a very fixed view of planet formation, as if there were isolated regions from which planets formed,” says researcher Colette Salic. “Now we finally have evidence that these regions interact with each other. Something similar may have happened in our solar system.”

More about James Webb
The James Webb Telescope is the successor to the famous Hubble Telescope. The telescope is the world’s most important observatory, one that promises to solve many mysteries in our solar system, provide a closer look at distant worlds around other stars, and reveal much about the origins of the universe and our place in it. In short, the telescope is expected to answer many questions and radically change our view of the universe and its creation. The telescope appears to be on the right track to fulfill this promise.

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