April 17, 2024

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Massive stars prevent the formation of gas giants

Massive stars prevent the formation of gas giants

Massive stars hinder the formation of Jupiter-like planets, which are called gas giants. About 1,350 light-years from Earth, astronomers saw massive stars “puff” gas out of the dense disk of dust and gas surrounding a young, low-mass star with their own emitting ultraviolet light. Gas giants need this gas to form.

The idea that massive stars push away gas around young stars using their own ultraviolet light has been around for a long time. This came from computer models. But this phenomenon has now been observed for the first time, books Astronomers last week Sciences. The international team of researchers relied on observations from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) located in the Chilean Andes.

Many bright young stars have been surrounded by a disk of gas and dust for several million years. By clumping together in a protoplanetary disk, planets slowly form. It takes at least a million years for a gas giant (which is mainly composed of gas) to form.

But sometimes, nearby massive stars “blow out” the gas before the gas giants have a chance to form. Young stars are often in a cluster with massive stars. Ultraviolet radiation or X-rays from these massive stars can heat the gas in the protoplanetary disk. This causes the molecules in the gas to move faster and faster, and eventually the gas escapes from the disk.

Orion Nebula

Astronomers have previously found indirect indications that this is happening in d203-506, a protoplanetary disk in the Orion Nebula. But direct evidence is difficult to find, according to astronomer Alessandra Candian of the University of Amsterdam and author of the study. “Protoplanetary disks are small celestial bodies compared to galaxies. In addition, the nearest star-forming regions, where we can find disks, are far away from us. The Orion Nebula, the closest star-forming region, is about 1,350 light-years from Earth.

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By combining observations from JWST and ALMA, astronomers were able to observe the d203-506 disk in enough detail to clearly see the escaping gas. JWST and ALMA see in different light: JWST sees in infrared light and ALMA sees in radio waves.

When astronomers calculated the amount of gas leaking from the disk, they saw that all the gas could disappear from the disk within a million years. This means that the gas giants will not have a chance here.

Why did Jupiter, a gas giant in our solar system, form? Candian: “In the disk surrounding the young Sun—which eventually grew into our solar system—radiation from nearby stars was not very strong. Enough gas remained for gas giant planets like Jupiter.


Astronomer Nienke van der Marel of Leiden University, who was not involved in the research, finds the observations compelling. “It's always great to observe something that our models predict. I'm curious to know whether the astronomers' discovery is a fluke, or whether this happens in many places in the universe. We know that among low-mass stars – stars with less mass About half the mass of the Sun – gas giants are rare.It will be interesting to know whether places in the universe that do not have gas giants are actually close to massive stars with strong ultraviolet radiation.