Home > Agencies & Organisations, Astronomy, ESA (European Space Agency), General Astronomy, Star & Solar System Formation > TW Hydrae: There’s More To Astronomers’ Favorite Planetary Nursery Than Previously Thought

TW Hydrae: There’s More To Astronomers’ Favorite Planetary Nursery Than Previously Thought


Artist's impression. Image credit: Axel M. Quetz (MPIA)

Artist’s impression. Image credit: Axel M. Quetz (MPIA)

Using ESA’s Herschel Space Telescope, astronomers including Thomas Henning from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg have used a new method to determine the mass of the planetary nursery around the star TW Hydrae. At a distance of merely 176 light-years from Earth, this is the closest star that is currently forming new planets – hence one of the most important objects for astronomers studying planet formation. The precise new measurement shows a much larger mass for TW Hydrae’s disk than in previous studies, indicating that the system could be forming planets similar to those of our own Solar System. The study is published in the January 31 issue of the journal Nature.

TW Hydrae has one of the most frequently observed protoplanetary disks of all, and its observations are a key to testing current models of planet formation. That’s why it was especially vexing that one of the fundamental parameters of the disk remained fairly uncertain: The total mass of the molecular hydrogen gas contained within the disk. This mass value is crucial in determining how many and what kinds of planets can be expected to form.

Full Story: http://www.mpia.de/Public/menu_q2e.php?Aktuelles/PR/2013/PR130130/PR_130130_en.html
Also: http://www.ns.umich.edu/new/releases/21145-how-planets-form-astronomers-weigh-a-protoplanetary-disk-with-unprecedented-accuracy

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