Astronomers of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have managed to capture in more detail than ever the various dust discs that surround young stars, regions where planets may be forming and whose research will contribute to the study of that phenomenon.
The work, published today in the Astrophysical Journal, is based on images captured by ESO’s Very Large Telescope, located in Chile.The latter has managed to suppress the bright light emitted by nearby stars through the use of the SPHERE instrument, which has allowed the researchers to have a better view of young stars, the Observatory explained in a statement.
The discs photographed by the telescope contain gas, dust and planetesimal elements that constitute the foundations of the planets and the progenitors of the planetary systems.
The size, structure and shapes of each disc vary from those made up of “shiny rings” to “dark rings”, or even those that “resemble burgers”, the researchers explain.
The images are also a sample of how our Solar System was more than 4 billion years ago, at the beginning of its formation.
The discovery has been possible due to the relative proximity of the stars, which are at a distance between 230 and 550 light years from Earth, compared with the 100,000 light years of diameter of the Milky Way, explains the Observatory.
According to ESO, the SPHERE instrument has also been used for other studies that explain “the interaction of a planet with a disk, the orbital movements within a system and the time of evolution of a disk.
The results of the new SPHERE captures are in addition to the recent discoveries of another ESO telescope, the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, which represent a great advance to understand the mechanisms by which young stars behave and their environments.
ESO currently has three observatories in the Atacama desert of Chile and works on the construction of a 39-meter telescope, the ELT, which will become “the world’s largest eye to observe the sky.”