A team of scientists from the Academia Sinica has discovered a near-transparent layer of dust in the near infrared marking a possible planet-forming disk around the young star RY Tauri, the country’s top research institute said yesterday.
The fluffy upper layer functions as a “special baby duvet” for forming planets and might be one of the key features for understanding how a variety of exoplanetary systems exist, Academia Sinica said.
The discovery was achieved during observation of the protoplanetary disk — a rotating circumstellar disk of dense gas surrounding a young newly formed star — around RY Tauri. Such disks are believed to be the sites where planets form.
Located about 460 light years away from Earth in the constellation Taurus, RY Tauri is around half a million years old, according to Academia Sinica.
The team, led by assistant research fellow Michihiro Takami from the Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, suspects that the fluffy layer observed in the disk is a remnant of the dust that fell onto the star and the disk during earlier stages of formation.
In most stars, this layer dissipates during formation. RY Tauri still has it, probably because of its youth, the team said.
According to the scientists, the layer may act as a special blanket to warm the inside of the disk for baby planets being born inside, which may affect the number, size and composition of the planets being formed in this system.
The finding was published in The Astrophysical Journal Aug. 1, 2013