Protoplanet ‘Flying Saucer’ could challenge theories on formation of planets

Scientists from an Institute in Bordeaux, France, say they have new information about how planets may be formed. The international team from Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Bordeaux have been studying a so-called “frozen protoplanet” some 400 light years from Earth.

The disc-shaped formation, found in the Rho Ophiuchi region, was found to have dust properties of a temperature much lower than current models suggested.

The disk lies in proximity to the star named 2MASS J16281370-2431391. Scientists studied grains of dust around the protoplanetary disc measuring around one millimetre across, observing a temperature of minus 266 Celsius, only a few degrees above absolute zero. Current models predict a much warmer range of -258 to -253°C.

It’s postulated the temperatures of dust in such formations affect how planets go on to be formed, with cooler temperatures allowing planets to settle closer to a parent star.

Astronomers had used the powerful Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array telescope in Chile, in conjunction with the Iram telescope from Spain to study the little glow of particles around 2MASS J16281370-2431391. The dust particles lie at a distance of 9 billion miles from planet Earth.

Emmanuel Di Folco, of the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique, said in a statement, “To work out the impact of this discovery on disk structure, we have to find out what plausible dust properties can result in such low temperatures…We have a few ideas — for example, the temperature may depend on grain size, with the bigger grains cooler than, the smaller ones.”

Lead researcher Stephane Guilloteau says the finding may help further develop our understanding of how planets form.

It’s believed that if dust around such a disk is colder; mass must be higher than previously thought. However, more emissions of these more frozen particles would be needed before planet formation could begin to take place.