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Posts Tagged ‘protoplanet’

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

February 6, 2013 Leave a comment

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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Vesta: Giant Impacts Delivered Carbon

January 6, 2013 Leave a comment

Most of the dark, carbonaceous material on Vesta can be found on the rims of smaller craters. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Most of the dark, carbonaceous material on Vesta can be found on the rims of smaller craters. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

The protoplanet Vesta has been witness to an eventful past: images taken by the framing camera onboard NASA’s space probe Dawn show two enormous craters in the southern hemisphere. The images were obtained during Dawn’s year-long visit to Vesta that ended in September 2012. These huge impacts not only altered Vesta’s shape, but also its surface composition. Scientists under the lead of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Germany have shown that impacting small asteroids delivered dark, carbonaceous material to the protoplanet. In the early days of our solar system, similar events may have provided the inner planets such as Earth with carbon, an essential building block for organic molecules. These results were published in the November-December issue of the journal Icarus.

Full Story: http://www.dawn.mps.mpg.de/index.php?id=17&L=1&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=172&cHash=fb71c4cb2dd3810fdc8752db4e4dcf3e