ALMA Able To Measure Seed For Planet Forming

By Rodney Rafols , Dec 05, 2016 11:20 PM EST

One of the most exciting aspects of Astronomy is to see how planets form. There are few sightings of this, though, even if there are already a number of stars seen having planets around them. ALMA though has been able to measure the seed for planet forming, which might be a good start to learn more how planets are formed.

Planet formation in itself is a long process. It takes millions of years for planets to evolve. Viewing some would take much time, though there are few stars that have been seen where the process is taking place. While the process might take time, the components that make planets are still around.

One of the components of planet formation is dust. The Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) has been able to measure the measure dust particles around a young star. This has been done through radio wave polarization.

Akimasa Kataoka of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and a Humboldt research fellow at Heidelberg University has studied how such small particles could eventually come together to form planets. Along with his colleagues, he has theorized that young stars have radio waves that scatter dust particles. This then polarizes the dust particles.

Kataoka and his team have observed the star HD 142527 in order to see how the process works, according to the ALMA website. Through observation they have been able to measure how large the dust particles are around the star. Most of the particles have a measurement of 140 micrometers, based on polarization. The size is ten times smaller than what's been expected.

This variance in actual size to its theoretical size might be attributed to the dust particles themselves. The particles are much more complex in shape than the theoretical spherical dust particle, as Phys Org notes. This would then account for the difference between how small the particles actually are as against what their size has been thought of.

Kataoka has noted that measuring the dust particles' size is just the first step. Much more research would be done in understanding how planets have been formed. ALMA being able to measure the seed for planet forming though is already a big step towards that direction. Also recently seen is a massive galaxy forming from molecular gas.

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