MAR 07, 2017 11:43 AM PST

'Dust Traps' Might Make Planetary Formation Possible

The answer to the question of how planets are formed has eluded scientists for years, but there may finally be a light at the end of the tunnel as some researchers think they might have some idea of what causes them to form.

Writing in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, the researchers discuss a very real scenario where young star systems develop disks of dust, gas, and other kinds of material that eventually clumps together to form planets.

Are 'dust traps' responsible for the formation of planets in these kinds of planet-forming debris disks?

Image Credit: Jean-Francois Gonzalez

While the existence of these disks is relatively well-known and accepted by current astrophysicists, there are still a number of bumps in the road that have to be overcome for planetary formation to be successful, including the drag of gas on particles and collisions from other formations breaking larger ones apart.

Using computer models, the researchers were able to recreate the circumstances where disks of debris form and then eventually begin ‘sticking together’ over time thanks to the properties of gravity.

These debris range in size, from micron-scale objects to fist-sized objects to large kilometer-scale objects, but when gravity has a chance to act on it, everything eventually clumps together to form bigger objects, and the cycle simply repeats itself until all of the matter has been clumped together in some way.

In order to get over the two very real complications, the researchers discuss something called a ‘dust trap’ that would have to exist within the disk of debris and gas.

This is essentially a controlled region in the disk where moving debris and gas are slowed down from the inevitable inwards pull towards the star’s center of gravity and are able to collect much easier. The slow-down also prevents collisions from breaking apart the already-formed clumps of material that will soon go off to form planets.

An artist's rendition of how the 'dust trap' theory works.

Image Credit: Volker Schurbert

These regions in planet-forming disks are far more stable for planetary formation than anywhere else in the disk is, which explains why planets are able to form in them more easily than anywhere else. Once enough matter clumps together, it gets to be massive enough that it creates its own gravitational influence and can redirect its own path.

More importantly, dust traps are probably far more common than originally thought, which might explain why so many star systems have their own planets.

Although we can spot planetary disks forming in other systems, we haven’t yet observed ‘dust trap’ activity taking place. Since there are so many different systems out there with planets orbiting the host star. This process could have taken place repeatedly to make it possible for those planets to form, as no other theory to date has such a solid foundation.

Source: Phys.org

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUN 17, 2018
Space & Astronomy
JUN 17, 2018
Astronaut Peggy Whitson Retires From NASA
Renowned NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson retired from the American space agency on Friday, just nine months after returning to Earth from the International Sp...
JUN 27, 2018
Videos
JUN 27, 2018
Will We Ever Achieve Light Speed?
Will humankind ever achieve light speed with a spacecraft? Science fiction movies keep our hopes high, but the reality of things is that it may not be poss...
AUG 01, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 01, 2018
Exoplanet Habitability May Depend on the UV Light Emitted by the Host Star
Does the type of light being emitted by a host star impact the probability of life popping up on any of its orbiting exoplanets? Citing a study led by rese...
SEP 09, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 09, 2018
Curiosity Rover Captures Stunning Panorama Following Successful Drill Sampling
NASA’s Curiosity rover currently sits at the forefront of the American space agency’s web page this week after capturing a breath-taking 360-de...
SEP 12, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 12, 2018
Why Do Some Galaxies Stop Producing Stars?
If you were to examine outer space with a powerful telescope, you’d see a bevy of distant galaxies containing uncountable amounts of stars. While it&...
SEP 17, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 17, 2018
How Common Are Planetary Collisions?
Outer space is nothing short of a galactic free-for-all. Space rocks fly in virtually every direction, sporadically impacting larger objects like moons, pl...
Loading Comments...