A “planetary factory” supported by dust and gas discs around young stars was discovered by European astronomers from crucial images obtained by the powerful telescope of the Southern European Observatory in Chile.
The astronomers detected nine discs around an equal number of stars, which are about ten million years old and are at distances between 230 and 550 light years from Earth. “The discs are all different, particularly in dimensions,” said Henning Avenhaus, of the Max Planck Institute in Germany and the Zurich Polytechnic, coordinator of one of the two investigations on the subject.
The images show that some discs harbor rings of luminous dust; others, of darker dust: all important signs for astronomers to understand how the Solar System could have been more than four billion years ago.
The discovery was published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, with Italian input from the National Institute of Astrophysics, coordinated by Elena Sissa, reported the Italian news agency Ansa.
The images captured by the Sphere observation instrument, installed in the Very Large Telescope of the Southern European Observatory in Chile, were crucial, allowing scientists to identify structures and see that they are very different from each other.
The astronomers described that some discs have a radius equivalent to 80 times the distance between the Sun and the Earth, and others up to 700 times.
Some have only dust and gas; in others, the dusts have already come together to form the “bricks” of planets, like the disk around the star GSC 07396-00759.
This star is attracted by the force of gravity of another a pair of stars in turn surrounded by another disc that was already known.
This “trio” offers a kind of natural laboratory for the study of the evolution of these structures “that we hope may be different from other solitary and binary stars”, concluded Sissa.