Scientists at the University of Georgia, the University of California, San Diego, UCLA, California State Polytechnic University and the Australia National University have collaborated on a study, published in the journal Nature, suggesting new information on how planets are formed.
began with a curious and unexpected finding: Within three years, the cloud of dust circling a young star in the Scorpius-Centaurus stellar nursery simply disappeared.
"The most commonly accepted time scale for the removal of this much dust is in the hundreds of thousands of years, sometimes millions," said study co-author Inseok Song, assistant professor of physics and astronomy in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. "What we saw was far more rapid and has never been observed or even predicted. It tells us that we have a lot more to learn about planet formation."
The release on the study notes some of its fascinating theories on the disappearance, not least runaway accretion and collisional avalanche. The farther our body of knowledge moves out into the universe, the more expansive our understanding of the fundamentals underlying its origins and entirety. While this perhaps sounds axiomatic, the continuing expansion only happens with the active pursuit of basic science, followed into the darker areas of our understanding. And while this kind of astronomy is far from basic, it is connected to the essental committment to scientific inquiry. Sometimes new theories even lead in the direction of heresies, but this also is a part of scientific inquiry and essential to expanding our knowledge base.
Image: Artist's conceptualization of the dusty TYC 8241 2652 system as it might have appeared several years ago when it was emitting large amounts of excess infrared radiation. Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA artwork by Lynette Cook.