ESA Hubble | ESO VLT | Science Release | 2015 Oct 07
Unique structures spotted around nearby star (AU Mic)
Using images from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers have discovered never-before-seen structures within a dusty disc surrounding a nearby star. The fast-moving wave-like features in the disc of the star AU Microscopii are unlike anything ever observed, or even predicted, before now. The origin and nature of these features present a new mystery for astronomers to explore. The results are published in the journal Nature on 8 October 2015.
AU Microscopii, or AU Mic for short, is a young, nearby star surrounded by a large disc of dust. Studies of such debris discs can provide valuable clues about how planets, which form from these discs, are created.
Astronomers have been searching AU Mic’s disc for any signs of clumpy or warped features, as such signs might give away the location of possible planets. And in 2014 they used the powerful high-contrast imaging capabilities of ESO’s newly installed SPHERE instrument, mounted on the Very Large Telescope for their search — and discovered something very unusual. ...
Five wave-like arches at different distances from the star show up in the new images, reminiscent of ripples in water. After spotting the features in the SPHERE data the team turned to earlier images of the disc taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope in 2010 and 2011 to see whether the features were also visible in these. They were not only able to identify the features on the earlier Hubble images — but they also discovered that they had changed over time. It turns out that these ripples are moving — and very fast! ...
Mysterious Ripples Found Racing Through Planet-Forming Disk
NASA GSFC | STScI HubbleSite | 2015 Oct 07
Fast-moving features in the debris disk around AU Microscopii - Anthony Boccaletti et al
- Nature 526(7572):320 (08 Oct 2015) DOI: 10.1038/nature15705