Astronomers May Have Discovered the Youngest Planet Ever Detected in Our Galaxy

Circumplanetary Disk Star AS 209

Scientists studying the young star AS 209 have detected gas in a circumplanetary disk for the first time, which suggests the star system may be harboring a very young Jupiter-mass planet. Science images from the research show (right) blob-like emissions of light coming from otherwise empty gaps in the highly-structured, seven-ring disk (left). Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), J Bae (University of Florida)

ALMA Makes First-Ever Detection of Gas in a Circumplanetary Disk

Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array ([{” attribute=””>ALMA) to study planet formation have made the first-ever detection of gas in a circumplanetary disk. What’s more, the detection also suggests the presence of a very young exoplanet. The results of the research were published on July 27 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Circumplanetary disks are an accumulation of gas, dust, and debris around young planets. These disks contain the material that may form moons and other small, rocky objects, and control the growth of young, giant planets. Analyzing these disks in their earliest stages may help shed light on the formation of our own Solar System, including that of Star AS 209

AS 209 is a young star in the Ophiuchus constellation that scientists have now determined is host to what may be one of the youngest exoplanets ever. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), A. Sierra (U. Chile)

What is AS 209?

AS 209 is a young star located around 395 light-years from Earth in the constellation Ophiuchus. The star system has been of interest to scientists working in the ALMA MAPS — Molecules with ALMA at Planet-forming Scales — collaboration for more than five years due to the presence of seven nested rings, which researchers believed to be associated with ongoing planet formation. The new results provide additional evidence of planet formation around the young star.

Circumplanetary Disk PDS 70

Artist impression of the circumplanetary disk discovered in 2021 around a young planet in the PDS 70 star system. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), S. Dagnello (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

The Discovery at AS 209 is Only the Third Confirmed Detection Ever of a Circumplanetary Disk

Astronomers have long suspected the presence of circumplanetary disks around exoplanets, but until recently were unable to prove it. In 2019, ALMA scientists made the first-ever detection of a circumplanetary, moon-forming disk while observing the young exoplanet PDS 70c, and confirmed the find in 2021. The new observations of gas in a circumplanetary disk at AS 209 may reveal additional details about the development of planetary atmospheres and the processes by which moons are formed.

Reference: “Molecules with ALMA at Planet-forming Scales (MAPS): A Circumplanetary Disk Candidate in Molecular-line Emission in the AS 209 Disk” by Jaehan Bae, Richard Teague, Sean M. Andrews, Myriam Benisty, Stefano Facchini, Maria Galloway-Sprietsma, Ryan A. Loomis, Yuri Aikawa, Felipe Alarcón, Edwin Bergin, Jennifer B. Bergner, Alice S. Booth, Gianni Cataldi, L. Ilsedore Cleeves, Ian Czekala, Viviana V. Guzmán, Jane Huang, John D. Ilee, Nicolas T. Kurtovic, Charles J. Law, Romane Le Gal, Yao Liu, Feng Long, François Ménard, Karin I. Öberg, Laura M. Pérez, Chunhua Qi, Kamber R. Schwarz, Anibal Sierra, Catherine Walsh, David J. Wilner and Ke Zhang, 27 July 2022, The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/ac7fa3

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