Shafagna – The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has detected water in the inner region of planet-forming gas and dust surrounding a newborn star.
The discovery is important because water, along with other molecules needed to form Earth-like worlds, is near many young, massive stars that produce intense ultraviolet radiation.
Such extreme environments were previously thought to be unsuitable for rocky planets to form, but the new discovery suggests that Earth-like planets can form in a wider range of cosmic environments than previously thought.
The results could help scientists better understand how the Solar System’s planets formed about 4.5 billion years ago.
The research also represents the first results from JWST’s Extreme Ultraviolet Environments (XUE) project, which aims to characterize the environments and chemistry of massive rotating disks of dust, gas and rock around young stars. and comets.
Team leader María Claudia Ramírez-Danos, a scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany, said: “The James Webb Space Telescope is the only space telescope with the spatial resolution and sensitivity to study planet-forming disks in regions of massive stars. Formation.”
The first results of XUE come from observations of a protoplanetary disk called XUE 1, located in the star cluster Bismis 24.
XUE 1 is one of 15 protoplanetary disks in NGC 6357 that are being studied as part of the XUE project.
The team expected the observations to show that XUE 1 had been exposed to high levels of ultraviolet radiation, but they were surprised to find that the protoplanetary disk was filled with tiny, partially crystallized silicate dust.
The researchers found traces of molecules such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen cyanide and acetylene.
“XUE1 shows that the necessary conditions exist for rocky planets to form, so the next step is to check how common this is,” Ramírez-Danos said. “We will monitor other discs in the same area to determine the frequency with which these conditions are seen.”
Details of the discovery have been published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
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