Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array Telescope based studies have hinted at signs of a new planet formation around TW Hydrae, a young star regarded close to Earth.

According to astronomers, TW Hydrae is engulfed by a disk of tiny dust particles, which is the actual site of planet formation. The tiny dust grains accumulating in the disk hold the clue to the nature and formation of the planet. Astronomers claim that the emerging planet could be an icy planet just like Uranus and Neptune.

Takashi Tsukagoshi from the Ibaraki University is Japan, lead researcher of the study on TW Hydrae, said that his team observed the formation of the new planet by using a slew of tools.

He added that the star is an ideal target for studying the new planet formation for various reasons. The star is relatively young with its age estimated to be 10 million years old. Moreover, given the star's proximity and the fact that its axis of rotation is toward Earth's direction, there is ease in capturing a face-on-view of the emerging planet.

"Combined with the orbit size and the brightness of TW Hydrae, the planet would be an icy giant planet like Neptune," said Tsukagoshi.

Radio Frequency Studies

The researchers deduced the size and nature of the planet from many indicators. They studied multiple gaps present in the disk by using two different radio frequencies.

Since the radio intensity ratio of different frequencies is based on the size of the dust particles, the abundance of smaller, micrometer-sized dust particles was detected compared to bigger dust particles.

The heavy concentration of smaller dust particles in the disk's main gap with a radius of 22 astronomical units was a clear indication that the emerging planet is massive and was responsible for the gaps in the disk.

The inference is that gravitational interaction plus friction between gas and dust particles might be driving out the larger dust particles from the gap and forcing the smaller particles to stay in the gap.

Now, the team is bracing for additional tests and observations to gain more insights about the planet being formed.

They will be studying radio waves' polarization. This follows suggestions that the size of dust grains can be better estimated if polarization observations are analyzed. Measuring the gas within the disk is another plan for garnering a better idea of the new planet's mass.

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