SPHERE Releases Stunning New Images Of Dust Rings Around Young Stars


Astronomers have shared new images of dust rings around young stars, which could also reveal information on how the early solar system looked like.


Researchers were able to capture images of the dust rings around young stars by using the Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet Research tool on the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile. With the SPHERE instrument, they were able to contain the light of the stars in order to view the dust around them.

These images were captured as part of the DARTTS-S, or Discs Around T Tauri Stars with SPHERE survey. Young stars are known as T Tauri stars, and they are younger than 10 million years old. The young stars observed by researchers were located between 230 and 500 light years away from Earth.

The discs captured by the SPHERE instrument vary in size and shape. Some of the rings are bright, some are dark, and some of the rings could be described as hamburgers. Images shared by astronomers show that the young stars may be in different scales in terms of how their systems are forming around them.

Discs around the young stars also contain gas, dust, and planetesimals, which are the building blocks of planets.

SPHERE's main mission is to be able to discover giant exoplanets that are orbiting stars near Earth using direct imaging. Having provided help in capturing the dust rings around young stars, it sheds light on the makeup of planets and how they are formed around stars.

Newborn Planets

In 2016, scientists captured evidence of what they believe are two planets forming around a young star in the Milky Way. Scientists observed the young star, HD 163296, which is around 400 light years away from Earth. HD 163296 is approximately 5 million years old and around twice the mass of the sun.

Researchers used the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. They were able to observe the dust and carbon monoxide gas components in the rings around HD 163296. These observations revealed that there were two planets forming around the star.

In the protoplanetary disk around the star, researchers found three gaps. One gap is 60 AU (93 million miles away),  while the other two gaps are 100 AU and 160 AU away from the HD 163296, respectively. 60 AU is around the distance of the Earth from the sun. The other two gaps would be farther away than the Kuiper Belt in Earth's system.

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