Pregnant dust ring now 'delivering' new planets

New York, Jan 20 (IANS): As you sip your cup of tea on a chilly morning, an enormous ring of dust and gas - encircling a distant star - may be giving births to new planets at this very moment.

According to a Japanese team, the ring surrounds the star named 'HD 142527' which is located over 456 lightyears away in the southern constellation called Lupus.

The ring's shiny-bright northern region is located incredibly far from the star itself - about five times the distance between the sun and neptune, said a press release by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile.

"We are very surprised at the brightness of the northern side. I have never seen such a 'bright knot' in such a distant position," said Misato Fukagawa, assistant professor at Osaka University, Japan.

A 'bright knot' indicates the densest clustering of material in that portion of the ring - just the right kind of scenario to spark the formation of protoplanets.

"When a sufficient amount of material is accumulated, planets or comets can be formed here," Fukagawa added.

This is also the first firm evidence of planetary formation observed so far from the central star in a protoplanetary disk.

According to Fukagawa's team, either rocky planets or giant Jupiter-sized worlds are actively being formed around 'HD 142527'.

"Our goal is to reveal the major physical process which controls the formation of planets," Fukagawa added.

The ALMA is an astronomical interferometer of radio telescopes in the Atacama desert of northern Chile.


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