Scientists may have discovered two infant planets in space.
Using the radio telescope Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), scientists at Rice University were able to observe the birth of two new planets. Comparable to the size of ringed planet Saturn, these planets orbit star HD163296, around 400 light years away from Earth.
Two newborn planets in space?
“ALMA has shown us amazing images and never-before-seen views of the rings and gaps around young stars that could be the hallmarks of planet formation,” project leader Andrea Isella said. “However, since we were only looking at the dust in the disks with sufficient detail, we couldn’t be sure what created these features.”
The planets were first hypothesized when dust gaps were observed in the star’s outer rings. According to Science Daily, the first gap is situated 60 astronomical units from the star. The other gaps are around 100 astronomical units and 16 astronomical units from the star.
An astronomical unit is the average distance from the Sun to the Earth. Isella said that the reduction in carbon monoxide levels in the dust gaps confirmed the hypothesis.
Discovery of two newborn planets: ‘We simply can’t rule out other possibly explanations’
There is strong evidence to suggest the birth of new planets. However, Isella emphasized they need to analyze the findings more closely.
“There are certain chemical and physical process that can produce ringed structures in the dust like the ones we have seen previously,” she said. “We certainly believe these structures could be the work of a nascent planet plowing through the dust, but we simply can’t rule out other possible explanations.”
The team of scientists will be able to confirm their findings following a 20-star survey in September this year.