Scientists have discovered a new icy planet revolving around a nearby young star that can solve the mystery of planetary evolution. Scientists know very little about the formation of icy planets and how they evolve. The new planet is slightly bigger than Neptune and still in the stage of formation which makes it a perfect site for researchers to study the planet and improve understanding of evolution of planets.
The new planet has been spotted around the star named TW Hydrae located 176 lights years from Earth. The discovery was made using the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) in Chile. ALMA has discovered several new planets in past few years.
What’s striking is that scientists still don’t know how these icy planet form and evolve over time. Researchers don’t even know how the origin of formation of icy planet takes place and observing the new icy planet might unravel the century-old mystery.
According to reports, the star TW Hydrae is 10 million years old and it is one of the youngest stars in near surrounding of Earth. Studying it could help scientists in knowing how various types of planets evolve over time, said astronomers from Ibaraki University in Japan who led to the study.
TW Hydrae is one of the most favourable sites discovered in recent years for investigative purposes and developing our understanding. Previously, researchers knew that the young star is surrounded by a disk made of tiny dust particles which might the destination of planet formation. Scientists believe that the region has enough raw material and required ingredients for the formation of planet.
Recent Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) observations revealed multiple gaps in the disk. Some theoretical studies suggest that the gaps are evidence of planet formation.
The team observed the disk around TW Hydrae with ALMA in two radio frequencies. Since the ratio of the radio intensities in different frequencies depends on the size of the dust grains, researchers can estimate the size of dust grains.
The ratio indicates that smaller, micrometer-sized, dust particles dominate and larger dust particles are absent in the most prominent gap with a radius of 22 astronomical units.
While examining, study authors calculated the mass of the icy giant planet completely based on the width and depth of the 22 AU gap. Scientists further wrote that the new planet is slightly bigger than the Neptune.
“Combined with the orbit size and the brightness of TW Hydrae, the planet would be an icy giant planet like Neptune,” said Tsukagoshi.