Astronomers detect 'Moon-forming disk' around an exoplanet for the first time
ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/Benisty et

After finding plenty of exoplanets over the year, astronomers for the first time have detected a colossal Moon-forming disk around a Jupiter-like exoplanet, around 400 light-years away. According to astronomers, this could be very helpful in studying the formation of the moon and cliams that this disk has enough material to create at least three astronomical bodies the size of Earth’s Moon.

How is the ‘moon-forming disk’ traced?

PDS 70c is that exoplanet around which this Moon-forming disk is traced – dubbed as a circumplanetary disk by astronomers. It is one of two planets that orbit a specific star over 400 light-years away from earth. An international group of astronomers found the disk while studying the planetary system with ALMA (Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array of telescopes) in Chile.

ALMA consists of 66 radio telescopes and is spread widely across the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. This helps scientists to look into the universe on the millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum. The output (spatial resolution) of this is five times better than the Hubble space telescope. Earlier scientists struggled to distinguish the disk from its surrounding environment but ALMA helped them to get over this issue.

Configuration of ‘Moon-forming disk’

The diameter of PDS 70c’s Moon-forming disk is equivalent to the distance from the sun to the earth. The mass is enough to form three satellites of the Earth’s moon size. The rings around Saturn are very small when compared to this disk as this is 500 times larger than rings of Saturn.

PDS 70c Moon-Forming Disk
The circumplanetary disk surrounding the exoplanet PDS 70c and the close-up view on the right highlights the moon formation, ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/Benisty et

Planets are formed from the gas and dust present in disks that orbit stars. And size is in continuous growth as they took more such material from the disk. This phenomenon sometimes leads planets to form their disk which will then help that specific planet in its growth.

Helpful discovery

Myriam Benisty, lead study author of the new study published in The Astrophysical Journal and a researcher at the University of Grenoble France said in a statement that their work gave a clear detection of a disc in which satellites could be forming, ALMA observations were obtained at such high resolution that they could easily identify that the disc is associated with the planet and they are also able to constrain its size for the first time.

This discovery will help scientists in studying briefly about moon formation in young star systems. It will also give insight into the planet formation phenomena. Gas and dust can also move freely in this peripheral disk as the material within the disk collides, resulting in moon formation. But still, complete information about the formation of planets and their moons is a mystery.

The two alien planets PDS 70b and PDS 70c, which share key characteristics with our solar system’s Jupiter and Saturn, were first discovered in 2018 and 2019 with the help of the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. These two exoplanets are still in growth, giving astronomers a good opportunity to study and learn about different phenomena.

Researchers are optimistic about getting a better image of what is happening in the universe concerning the moon and planets. Probably in the future, an actual formation of an exoplanet’s moon might be discovered, which will then unveil all questions.

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