Kavli Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, Peking University
National Research Council of Canada | 2017 Nov 06
Discovery made possible by a leap in submillimetre radio astronomy technology, comparable to viewing videos instead of photosAn international team of researchers have found an infrequent variation in the brightness of a forming star. This 18-month recurring twinkle is not only an unexpected phenomenon for scientists, but its repeated behavior suggests the presence of a hidden planet.
- These images were taken one year apart, when the protostar was faint (left, 2016 February) and bright (right, 2017 February). Both panels show the sub-mm brightness of the nearby star-forming region Serpens Main as observed with the JCMT. The locations of forming stars are revealed by the bright yellow peaks and the surrounding gas is shown in red.
This discovery is an early win for the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) Transient Survey, just one-and-a-half years into its three-year mandate to monitor eight galactic stellar nurseries for variations in the brightness of forming stars. This novel study is critical to understanding how stars and planets are assembled. ...
“This variation in the brightness or twinkle of the star EC53 suggests that something large is disrupting the gravitational pull of the forming star. The fact that it recurs every 18 months suggests that this influence is orbiting around the star – it’s quite likely a hidden, forming planet,” says Doug Johnstone. It is thought that a companion planet is orbiting the star, and its passing gravitational pull disrupts the rate of the gas falling onto the forming star, providing a variation in the observed brightness, or light curve, of the star. ...
The JCMT Transient Survey: Detection of Submillimeter Variability
in a Class I Protostar EC 53 in Serpens Main - Hyunju Yoo et al