Rochester Institute of Technology’s Joel Kastner, a professor in the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science and School of Physics and Astronomy, and a team of researchers with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have discovered new evidence of how planets as massive as Jupiter can form, using images from the ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) and the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).
The combination of VLT and ALMA imaging have yielded detections of dusty clumps close to the young star V960 Mon that could collapse to create giant planets. The work is based on an infrared image obtained with the Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet Research (SPHERE) instrument on ESO’s VLT and a radio-wavelength image with ALMA that together reveal, in fascinating detail, the material around the star.
This young star attracted astronomers’ attention when it suddenly increased its brightness more than 20 times in 2014. SPHERE observations taken shortly after the onset of this brightness “outburst” revealed that the material orbiting V960 Mon is assembling together in a series of intricate spiral arms extending over distances bigger than the entire solar system.
Kastner worked on the SPHERE imaging project with former RIT student David Principe ’14 Ph.D. (astrophysical sciences and technology), who is now at the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“The two of us put SPHERE observing proposals together to look at these outbursting objects,” said Kastner. “We were hoping to see structure around them that is lit up by the outbursts, but we really weren’t sure what kind of structure we might see. We thought we might be able to see the dusty material around the star that is feeding the star and maybe forming planets, and this was a great case where both appear to have been detected.”
Astronomers believe that giant planets form either by “core accretion,”‘ when dust grains slowly coagulate…