Thanks to the James Webb Space Telescope, scientists have confirmed one of the most important hypotheses regarding the formation of planets. It turned out that planets are formed thanks to small, icy dust particles, which are also the centers of matter condensation and its source.
Observations conducted with the James Web Telescope confirmed the key role of ice-covered particles in the formation of planets. The instrument was aimed at four protoplanetary disks.
As explained by experts from NASAaccording to a theory popular among experts, planets are formed thanks to small, ice-covered dust particles, which become centers of matter condensation and, at the same time, constitute a source of matter.
One of the main assumptions of this theory, however, is that these particles come from distant, outer regions of the protoplanetary disk due to friction with the gas present in it and deceleration. When these particles get closer to the star, the water contained in them turns into steam.
– Webb finally showed the connection between water vapor in the inner disk and the inflow of particles from its outer parts. This discovery opens exciting prospects for studying the formation of rocky planets with Webb’s help, said Andrea Banzatti of Texas State University, San Marcos, author of the study described in “The Astrophysical Journal Letters”.
– In the past, we had a static picture of planet formation – a bit as if there were isolated zones where planets formed. We now have evidence that these zones interact with each other. These processes are believed to have also occurred in our Solar System, emphasized Colette Salyk from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, co-author of the publication.
A group of scientists used the Webb Telescope to look at four protoplanetary disks orbiting Sun-like stars. Each of them is only two to three million years old, so they are “newborns” on a cosmic scale. The researchers described two disks as compact and two as large.
According to the theory, in compact disks, the strong inflow of the mentioned particles should bring them to a significantly smaller distance from the star than the orbit of Neptune. In large disks, on the contrary, particles should remain in numerous rings extending as far as six Neptune orbits.
Observations checking the presence of water carried by the particles confirmed the theory. Initially, however, scientists could not decipher the collected data.
– For two months we were stuck with preliminary results showing that compact disks contain colder water and large disks – warmer. This didn’t make sense because we chose stars with similar temperature values - explained Prof. Banzatti.
They found that the compact disks contained additional amounts of cold water just at the edge of the so-called ice zone, at a distance from the star about 1/10 of Neptune’s orbit.
– Now we finally and undeniably see this excess of cold water. This is an unprecedented achievement of Webb’s high resolution – emphasized Prof. Banzatti.
Main photo source: NASA, ESA, CSA, Joseph Olmsted (STScI)