NASA | STScI | HubbleSite | 2017 Jan 07
Searching for planets around other stars is a tricky business. They're so small and faint that it's hard to spot them. But a possible planet in a nearby stellar system may be betraying its presence in a unique way: by a shadow that is sweeping across the face of a vast pancake-shaped gas-and-dust disk surrounding a young star.Shadow on TW Hydrae's Disk - Credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Debes (STScI)
The planet itself is not casting the shadow. But it is doing some heavy lifting by gravitationally pulling on material near the star and warping the inner part of the disk. The twisted, misaligned inner disk is casting its shadow across the surface of the outer disk.
A team of astronomers led by John Debes of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, say this scenario is the most plausible explanation for the shadow they spotted in the stellar system TW Hydrae, located 192 light-years away in the constellation Hydra, also known as the Female Water Snake. The star is roughly 8 million years old and slightly less massive than our sun. The researchers uncovered the phenomenon while analyzing 18 years' worth of archival observations taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. ...
Chasing Shadows: Rotation of the Azimuthal Asymmetry in the TW Hya Disk - John H. Debes et al