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Chilean astronomers find key to planet formation

Chilean astronomers find key to planet formation

An investigation led by astronomers from the University of Chile has reached the main findings about the formation of giant planets, work published in The Astrophysical Journal.

Led by astronomer Teresa Baneque, just 23, and Laura Pérez, astronomer and professor at the University of Chile’s School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, the project was in collaboration with the ALMA Telescope, the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and various study centers.

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The research highlights the process of formation of planetary systems such as the solar system, an area that, according to experts, still has many questions.

To counter it, Baneke turned his attention to Elias 2-27, a star located 378 million light-years from Earth, whose spiral structure composed of dust and gas would be a “protoplanetary disk”, that is, from which planets would form.

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Giant planet formation

The article shows for the first time in a “robust” way the “instability of gravity at work”, that is, in Baneke’s words, it was like “grabbing the system red-handed”.

According to the University of Chile academic, there are two main mechanisms contemplated for the formation of planets: first, accretion – the growth of the body by the aggregation of smaller bodies – of small particles that clump together; Second, gravitational instability, which is effective in the forms of giant planets.

“Since the 2-27- Elias disk undergoes this process, what one would expect is that these spirals fragment and form giant planets. In any case, this does not exclude the possibility that small planets are formed as well,” he says. Currently, the young astronomer, who is doing her PhD at the European Southern Observatory, will address the molecular structure of Elias 2-27 in her first research project.

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“We want to understand what are the basic ‘components’ of planet formation, know their chemical reservoir, and see the differences and similarities between them and other protoplanetary disks. This will also allow us to contribute knowledge about the evolution of life on planets,” he added.


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