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Astronomers find Evidence for 2 Newborn Planets, orbiting around a Young Star known as HD 163296

HD 163296 is roughly five million years old and about twice the mass of the Sun

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NASA plans to Crash a Refrigerator-Sized Spacecraft. VOA

New York, December 13, 2016: Astronomers believe they have found compelling evidence for two newborn planets, each about the size of Saturn, orbiting around a young star known as HD 163296.

These planets, which are not yet fully formed, revealed themselves by the dual imprint they left in both the dust and the gas portions of the star’s protoplanetary disk, the researchers said.

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In studying HD 163296, the research team used Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) to trace, for the first time, the distribution of both the dust and the carbon monoxide (CO) gas components of the disk at roughly the same level of detail.

“Our new observations provide intriguing evidence that planets are indeed forming around this one young star,” said study lead author Andrea Isella, astronomer at Rice University in Houston, Texas, US.

HD 163296 is roughly five million years old and about twice the mass of the Sun. It is located approximately 400 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius.

The researchers found three distinct gaps in the star’s dust-filled protoplanetary disk.

Using ALMA’s ability to detect the faint millimeter-wavelength “glow” emitted by gas molecules, Isella and his team discovered that there was also an appreciable dip in the amount of carbon monoxide in the outer two dust gaps.

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By seeing the same features in both the gas and the dust components of the disk, the astronomers believe they have found compelling evidence that there are two planets coalescing remarkably far from the central star.

The width and depth of the two carbon monoxide gaps suggest that each potential planet is roughly the same mass as Saturn, the astronomers said in a study published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

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In the gap nearest to the star, the team found little to no difference in the concentration of CO gas compared to the surrounding dusty disk.

This means that the innermost gap could have been produced by something other than an emerging planet, the study said. (IANS)

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Astronomers Measure Mass of Milky Way Galaxy

The Milky Way, the galaxy which contains Earth's solar system, is home to up to 400 billion stars and an estimated 100 billion planets.

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The measurement includes all the stars and planets, dust and gas, as well as the four-million-solar-mass supermassive black hole at the center. Pixabay

Using data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite, astronomers have come up with one of the most accurate measurements of mass of the Milky Way galaxy.

While previous research dating back several decades provided estimates for our galaxy’s mass, ranging between 500 billion to three trillion solar masses, according to the latest measurements, Milky Way weighs about 1.5 trillion solar masses (one solar mass is the mass of our Sun).

The measurement includes all the stars and planets, dust and gas, as well as the four-million-solar-mass supermassive black hole at the center.

“We want to know the mass of the Milky Way more accurately so that we can put it into a cosmological context and compare it to simulations of galaxies in the evolving universe,” said Roeland van der Marel of the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland.

milky way galaxy, scientists
The more massive a galaxy, the faster its globular clusters move under the pull of gravity, according to a forthcoming paper in The Astrophysical Journal. Pixabay

To weigh the galaxy, the team augmented Gaia measurements for 34 globular clusters out to 65,000 light-years, with Hubble measurements of 12 clusters out to 130,000 light-years that were obtained from images taken over a 10-year period.

They also measured the three-dimensional movement of globular star clusters – isolated spherical islands each containing hundreds of thousands of stars each that orbit the center of our galaxy.

The more massive a galaxy, the faster its globular clusters move under the pull of gravity, according to a forthcoming paper in The Astrophysical Journal.

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The new mass estimate puts our galaxy on the beefier side, compared to other galaxies in the universe. The lightest galaxies are around a billion solar masses, while the heaviest are 30 trillion, or 30,000 times more massive.

The Milky Way, the galaxy which contains Earth’s solar system, is home to up to 400 billion stars and an estimated 100 billion planets. (IANS)