Astronomers look at complex structures in the remnant disk of a nearby star

(ORDO NEWS) — Much to the surprise of scientists, the accumulation of dust and debris surrounding the young star HD 53143 turned out to be highly elongated and complexly organized: it has two rings and at least one planet.

The young sun-like star HD 53143 lies 60 light-years away in the southern constellation Carina. Her first observations were made in 2006 using the Hubble Space Telescope, which also examined the residual disk surrounding the star.

Such disks appear in young systems – from the debris and dust left after the formation of planets and other large bodies. They are thought to be chaotic clusters of more or less round shape, similar to the Kuiper belt at the far periphery of the solar system.

However, new observations made with the ALMA radio telescopes operating in Chile have revealed a completely different picture.

For the first time, astronomers have seen the remnant disk of the star HD 53143 in the millimeter wave range – it turned out that it has an unexpectedly elongated shape and a complex internal structure.

Meredith MacGregor and her colleagues made a presentation on this at the 240th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS). Their paper has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal Letters and is now available in the arXiv preprint library.

Astronomers look at complex structures in the remnant disk of a nearby star 2
Composite image of the HD 53143 system. Red-orange shows ALMA data, blue shows Hubble

Instead of a rounded disk with a star in the very center, scientists saw an elongated oval and HD 53143 located at one of its foci.

Moreover, it looks like there is another disk closer to the star, slightly rotated relative to the outer one. “For such a structure to form,” says Meredith McGregor, “you need a planet or several planets, the gravity of which perturbs the movement of matter in the disk.”

The structure surrounding HD 53143 came as a big surprise to astronomers. Such disks help us understand how planets and planetary systems, including our own, form.

“Residual disks are like fossils left over from the formation of the planets,” McGregor adds. “The new results show that there is still a lot of unknown that can be learned from them. This knowledge will allow us to understand the complex dynamics of young star systems similar to our solar system.”

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