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NASA Study Shows Disk Patterns Can Self-Generate

12 Jan 2018, 20:19 UTC
NASA Study Shows Disk Patterns Can Self-Generate
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When scientists searching for exoplanets — worlds located beyond our solar system — first spotted patterns in disks of dust and gas around young stars, they thought newly formed planets might be the cause. But a recent NASA study cautions that there may be another explanation — one that doesn’t involve planets at all.Exoplanet hunters watch stars for a few telltale signs that there might be planets in orbit, like changes in the color and brightness of the starlight. For young stars, which are often surrounded by disks of dust and gas, scientists look for patterns in the debris — such as rings, arcs and spirals — that might be caused by an orbiting world. “We’re exploring what we think is the leading alternative contender to the planet hypothesis, which is that the dust and gas in the disk form the patterns when they get hit by ultraviolet light,” said Marc Kuchner, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.Kuchner presented the findings of the new study on Thursday, Jan. 11, at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington. A paper describing the results has been submitted to The Astrophysical Journal.When high-energy UV starlight hits dust grains, ...

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