When newborn stars form from a cloud of molecular hydrogen, they are surrounded by a disk of leftover material known as a protoplanetary disk.
Planets originate in this disk, and astronomers are growing better at gazing into those veiled surroundings and seeing embryonic worlds take shape.
However, young stars aren’t the only ones with raw material disks spinning around them.
Some fading stars have disks as well. Under such circumstances, is it possible for the second generation of planets to form?
Planets develop shortly after stars, but not for long.
The Sun was created roughly 4.6 billion years ago in our Solar System, and the Earth about 4.5 billion years ago.
The destiny of the Earth is intertwined with that of the Sun.
When the Sun becomes a red giant, it will spew layers into space, ultimately destroying Earth and the other inner planets.
Jupiter and the outer planets will live on, but they will most likely spend the remainder of their lives around a white dwarf, the Sun’s remnant.
In this scenario, no new planets can form around the white dwarf.
Our Sun, on the other hand, is a relative rarity.
How Does New Planets Come Out of Destruction?
There are many binary pairings of stars in the universe. Binary stars have the same age but differing masses.
Because the starting mass of a star influences its longevity, the stars in a binary pair have varying lifespans.
If one of those stars has the same mass as our Sun, it will die as a red giant, ejecting material into space as it does so.
What happens to all of that matter if the star has a binary companion?
This is where the new research comes into play. It is titled “A population of transition disks orbiting evolved stars: Planetary Fingerprints.” Jacques Kluska, an astronomer at KU Leuven, is the initial author.
The work was published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
The gravitational attraction of the second star may force the dying star’s ejected material to create a new revolving disk that is strikingly similar to the protoplanetary disk that surrounded the star when it was young.
Astronomers were previously aware that this was a possibility.
The evidence that the second generation of planets may emerge in the disk is novel.
According to this new research, new planets are developing around 10% of binary stars in this circumstance.
Scientists observed a huge cavity in the disc in 10% of the evolved binary stars with discs we analyzed, as first author Kluska noted. This is an indicator that something is floating about there that has gathered all stuff in the hollow region.
Planets are most likely the only object that can form in these disks. Observations of the fading star support the theory that the object is a planet.
Astronomers are still unsure if they are planets, but the evidence is intriguing.
It would be a considerable finding if it is discovered that the second generation of planets is emerging in this manner.
It indicates that our explanation of planetary formation, known as the nebular hypothesis, is true but falls short of the mark.
According to Professor Hans Van Winckel, director of the KU Leuven Institute of Astronomy, the confirmation or denial of this unusual process of planet creation will be an unparalleled challenge for present ideas.
Doris’s passion for writing started to take shape in college where she was editor-in-chief of the college newspaper. Even though she ended up working in IT for more than 7 years, she’s now back to what he always enjoyed doing. With a true passion for technology, Doris mostly covers tech-related topics.