Possible New Planet Disclosed by Shadow


NASA may have discovered a new planet by spotting a shadow close to a star

In spite of how difficult it is to spot new planets close to other stars, NASA made an important discovery. They found some signs that might belong to a planet in a system close to ours. They discovered the existence of the cosmic body in a weird fashion, by noticing a shadow on the surface of a disk of gas and dust that was surrounding a young star.

What is even more interesting is that the possible planet appears not to be the one casting the shadow. NASA disclosed that another planet might have pulled some material really close to the star and the gas-and-dust disk bent under the weight and absorbed the material. The blocked that formed inside the disk is now casting its shadow upon it.

The discovery was made in the stellar system TW Hydrae of constellation Hydra, 192 light-years away. The star is young, about 8 million years old, and significantly smaller than our sun. The shadow was discovered after the analysis of data collected by the Hubble Space Telescope for 18 years.

They noticed how bright areas on the disk changed location. After browsing the archive of the Hubble Telescope, they assembled six pictures taken at different times. The pictures showed the bright structure moving in counter-clockwise manner until the location in the picture from 2016 matched the location from 2000. The short duration of the moving cycle brought the conclusion that the dark structure moved too quickly to be a structure within the disk, but rather an imprinted spot on the surface of the disk.

The Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) Telescope in Chile brought out a new discovery. The secondary disk might also have a warp in its surface, too. This represents a major key in the theory of the new planet. The possible explanation of this phenomenon might be given by the existence of an unseen planetary body with a strong gravitational influence that attracts material from the outer disk and this material causes the inner disk to twist.

This discovery is also important because it provides vital information on how to look for other planets and have an insight on what may be happening in a gas-and-dust disk surrounding the star, an area hard to observe and study.
Image Source: Pixabay