Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Astronomers Find Stellar Cradle Where Planets Form

Date:
November 30, 2007
Source:
University of Illinois
Summary:
Astronomers have found the first clear evidence for a cradle in space where planets and moons form. The cradle, revealed in photographs taken with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, consists of a flattened envelope of gas and dust surrounding a young protostar.

A rare, infrared view of the very young star L1157 with its flaring jets from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope (right) shows us what our own solar system might have looked like billions of years ago. In visible light, this star and its surrounding regions appear black (left). The reddish haze all around the Spitzer image (right) is dust. The white dots are other stars, mostly in background. The Spitzer image has infrared light of 8 microns is colored red; 4.5-micron infrared light is green; and 3.6-micron infrared light is blue. The visible-light picture is from the Palomar Observatory-Space Telescope Science Institute Digitized Sky Survey. Blue visible-light is blue; red visible light is green, and near-infrared light is red.
Credit: NASA, JPL Cal Tech, L. Looney (University of Illinois)

Astronomers at the University of Illinois have found the first clear evidence for a cradle in space where planets and moons form. The cradle, revealed in photographs taken with NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, consists of a flattened envelope of gas and dust surrounding a young protostar.

Related Articles


“We are seeing this object in the early stages of stellar birth,” said U. of I. astronomy professor Leslie Looney, the lead author of a paper accepted for publication in Astrophysical Journal Letters. “Eventually, the protostar will form into a star much like our sun, and the disk will form into planets and moons.”

Located about 800 light-years away in the constellation Cepheus, the object is obscured by dust and therefore invisible to the eye. However, the Spitzer Space Telescope’s sensitive infrared camera can penetrate the dust, and reveal the structures within.

The brightest structure consists of an enormous, almost linear flow of shocked molecular hydrogen gas erupting from the protostar’s two magnetic poles. These bipolar jets are so long, light would take about 1 1/2 years to travel from one end to the other.

In star-formation theory, a cloud of gas and dust collapses to form a star and its planets. As the cloud collapses, it begins to rotate faster and faster, like a pirouetting ice skater pulling in her arms. The force of the growing magnetic field ejects some of the gas and dust along the magnetic axis, forming the bipolar jets seen in the photograph.

“If material was not shed in this fashion, the protostar’s spin would speed up so fast it would break apart,” Looney said.

The planet-forming region is perpendicular to, and roughly centered on the polar jets. There, seen in silhouette against a bright background of galactic infrared emission, is the flattened disk of a circumstellar envelope.

Theorized, but never before seen, the flattened disk is an expected outcome for cloud-collapse theories that include magnetic fields or rotation.

“Some theories had predicted that envelopes flatten as they collapse onto their stars and surrounding planet-forming disks,” Looney said, “but we hadn’t seen any strong evidence of this until now.”

With Looney, co-authors of the paper are former undergraduate student John Tobin (now at the University of Michigan) and graduate student Woojin Kwon.

The Spitzer Space Telescope is operated by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. Funding was provided by NASA.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Illinois. "Astronomers Find Stellar Cradle Where Planets Form." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 November 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071129141146.htm>.
University of Illinois. (2007, November 30). Astronomers Find Stellar Cradle Where Planets Form. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071129141146.htm
University of Illinois. "Astronomers Find Stellar Cradle Where Planets Form." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071129141146.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

Spokesman: 'NORAD Ready to Track Santa'

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said that NORAD is ready to track Santa Claus as he delivers gifts next week. Speaking tongue-in-cheek, he said if Santa drops anything off his sleigh, "we've got destroyers out there to pick them up." (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA's Planet-Finding Kepler Mission Isn't Over After All

NASA's Planet-Finding Kepler Mission Isn't Over After All

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) More than a year after NASA declared the Kepler spacecraft broken beyond repair, scientists have figured out how to continue getting useful data. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Rover Finds More Clues About Possible Life On Mars

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) NASA's Curiosity rover detected methane on Mars and organic compounds on the surface, but it doesn't quite prove there was life ... yet. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Evidence of Life on Mars? NASA Rover Finds Methane, Organic Chemicals

Evidence of Life on Mars? NASA Rover Finds Methane, Organic Chemicals

Reuters - US Online Video (Dec. 16, 2014) NASA's Mars Curiosity rover finds methane in the Martian atmosphere and organic chemicals in the planet's soil, the latest hint that Mars was once suitable for microbial life. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins