Hubble discovers protoplanet defying models of planet formation

(ORDO NEWS) — NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has made direct observations of a Jupiter-sized protoplanet forming in what researchers describe as “high-intensity and turbulent.”

This finding lends support to the controversial hypothesis that Jupiter-sized planets form as a result of “gravitational disk instability.”

This emerging planet lies in a protoplanetary disk of gas and dust, characterized by a pronounced spiral structure, which surrounds a young star about two million years old.

Around the same age in our solar system, the formation of planets took place. (Our planetary system is currently 4.6 billion years old.)

“Nature is smart; it shapes the planets according to a variety of mechanisms,” said Thayne Currie, a member of the Subaru Observatory science team and lead author of the new study.

All planets are formed from material originating from the circumstellar disk. The main modern hypothesis for the formation of Jupiter-type planets is the “core accretion” scenario, in which planets lying in an accretion disk grow by sticking together small objects ranging in size from dust grains to fairly large stones.

This core then slowly collects gas from the disk onto itself. In contrast to this scenario, an alternative hypothesis, called the disk instability hypothesis, suggests that the massive disk cools and fragments gravitationally to form protoplanets.

This newly discovered emerging planet, called AB Aurigae b, has a mass of about 9 Jupiter masses and orbits a star at a huge distance of 13.8 billion kilometers from it.

The formation of a planet located at such a great distance from the parent star, according to the mechanism of accretion of the core, proceeds extremely slowly – if at all possible.

This allowed the authors to conclude that the formation of the planet at such a large distance from the star occurred through the mechanism of disk instability.


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