US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — New data shows that the first images in the world that capture the birth of a pair of planets orbiting the PDS 70 star are actually genuine.
Using a new infrared sensor to correct adaptive optics at the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, a team of astronomers led by the California Institute of Technology used a new method of photographing planets or protoplanets and confirmed their existence.
Team results are published in today’s issue of the Astronomical Journal.
PDS 70 is the first known multi-planetary system in which astronomers can observe planet formation in action. The first direct image of one of her planets, PDS 70b, was obtained in 2018, after which in 2019 several images were taken taken at different wavelengths of her sibling, PDS 70c. Both Jupiter-like protoplanets were discovered by the very large telescope of the European Southern Observatory (VLT).
“There was some confusion when the two protoplanets were first photographed,” said Jason Wang, an associate at the California Institute of Technology and lead author of the study. “The embryos of the planet are formed from a disk of dust and gas surrounding a newborn star. This circumstellar material accumulates on the protoplanet, creating a kind of smokescreen that makes it difficult to differentiate a dusty gaseous disk from a developing planet in the pictures.”
To help ensure clarity, Wang and his team developed a method for unraveling signals from the circumstellar disk and protoplanets in the images.
“We know that the shape of the disk should be a symmetrical ring around the star, while the planet should be the only point in the image,” Wang said. “Thus, even if the planet is on top of the disk, as in the case of PDS 70c, based on our knowledge of how the entire disk looks, we can conclude how bright the disk should be at the location of the protoplanet and delete information about drive. All that remains is the planet.”
The team received images of the PDS 70 using a near infrared camera (NIRC2) on a Keck II telescope.
“The new infrared detector technology used in our sensor has greatly improved our ability to study exoplanets, especially those that are around small-mass stars where planets are actively forming,” says Sylvain Chetre, software engineer at Keck Observatory and one of leading update developers. “It will also allow us to improve the quality of our correction for more complex purposes, such as the center of our galaxy.”
This project used an innovative infrared sensor that measures the distortion of light caused by the Earth’s atmosphere.
“New technology is a multiplier of science,” says Peter Kurchinsky, program director of the National Science Foundation, which funded this project. “This allows for investigations that were previously impossible.”
We used the method used to eliminate atmospheric blur, which distorts astronomical images. Thanks to the new infrared sensor and real-time controller, the Keck Observatory system allows for clearer and more detailed images.
“The PDS 70 shots taken by Jason’s team were one of the first scientific-quality tests created using the new sensor,” said Charlotte Bond, who played a key role in the development and installation of the technology. “It is interesting to see how accurately the new system corrects the atmospheric turbulence of dusty objects such as young stars, where protoplanets are expected to be located, providing the clearest overview of these children’s versions of our solar system.”
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