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Current Affairs > Science and Technology > 2018-12-11 > Science and Technology

Trove Of New Planets Could Be Hiding In Cosmic Dust'

What in news:

         Super-Earths" and Neptune-sized planets could be forming in the cosmic dust around young stars in much greater numbers than previously estimated, a study has found.

About news:

         Observing a sampling of young stars in a star-forming region in the constellation Taurus, researchers from the University of Arizona in the US found many of them to be surrounded by structures that can best be explained as traces created by invisible, young planets in the making.

         The research, published in the Astrophysical Journal, helps scientists better understand how our own solar system came to be.

         Some 4.6 billion years ago, our solar system was a roiling, billowing swirl of gas and dust surrounding our newborn son.

         At the early stages, this so-called protoplanetary disk had no discernable features, but soon, parts of it began to coalesce into clumps of matter -- the future planets. As they picked up new material along their trip around the Sun, they grew and started to blow patterns of gaps and rings into the disk from which they formed.

         Using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, or ALMA, comprising 45 radio antennas in Chile's Atacama Desert, the team performed a survey of young stars in the Taurus star-forming region, a vast cloud of gas and dust located a modest 450 light-years from Earth.

         When the researchers imaged 32 stars surrounded by protoplanetary disks, they found that 12 of them -- 40 percent -- have rings and gaps, structures that according to the team's measurements and calculations can be best explained by the presence of nascent planets.

         Most previous observations had been targeted to detect the presence of very massive planets, which we know are rare, that had carved out large inner holes or gaps in bright disks.

         According to the findings, Neptune-sized gas planets or so-called super-Earths -- terrestrial planets of up to 20 Earth masses -- should be the most common

         Only two of the observed disks could potentially harbor behemoths rivalling Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system.

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA)

         ALMA is an astronomical interferometer of 66 radio telescopes in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile.

         It observe electromagnetic radiation at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths.

         The array has been constructed on the 5,000 m (16,000 ft) elevation Chajnantor plateau.

         ALMA is expected to provide insight on star birth during the early Stelliferous era and detailed imaging of local star and planet formation.

Expected prelims question

Consider the following statements with reference to ALMA

1.       ALMA is an astronomical interferometer.

2.       ALMA is expected to provide insight on star birth.

3.       It measures millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths

Which of the above statements are correct.

a)                   Only 1 and 2

b)                  Only 2 and 3

c)                   All of above

d)                  None of above

Ans - c

Expected mains question

Critically analyse the role of Atacama Large Millimeter Array in identifying the insight on star birth and solar system formation.