Quirks & Quarks

Planets Survive a Stellar Bully

New results from the ALMA telescope show that planets can form in the vicinity of a destructively radiant star....

In the beautiful Orion Nebula, gas and dust are consolidating to form stars and solar systems, but a huge, very bright star is, at the same time, trying to tear them apart. The Hubble telescope showed the protoplanetary disks of some young solar systems being distorted into tear-drop shapes by the powerful ultraviolet radiation from the giant star. Astronomers wondered if this intense radiation was preventing planets from forming. Now, new observations by astronomer Dr. Rita Mann of the National Research Council's Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in Victoria, and her colleagues, using the ALMA telescope, show that some young systems are being torn apart, but only those closest to the huge star. Those even a little distance away will be able to form planets, despite the intense radiation.

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