Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

September 25, 1998

Twin Proto-Planetary Disks
Credit: L. F. Rodriguez (UNAM) et al., NRAO, AUI

Explanation: Sun-like stars are forming - and probably planets too - hidden inside Lynds 1551, an interstellar cloud of molecular gas and dust in the constellation Taurus. Using new receivers, coordinated radio telescopes at the Very Large Array near Socorro, New Mexico, USA, can now sharply image the dusty proto-planetary disks surrounding these young stars at radio wavelengths. Just announced, this exciting example shows a false-color radio picture of twin disks in a double star system! A yellow bar indicates the scale in astronomical units (AUs) where one AU is the average distance between the Earth and Sun. The stars (unseen near the center of each disk) are about 45 AUs apart, comparable to the radius of the orbit of Pluto. Similar proto-planetary disks have been seen around single stars, but these twin disks are much smaller, each limited in size by the gravity of the nearby companion star. In fact, if large planets form orbiting near the edges of these disks they may be ejected from the binary system.

Tomorrow's picture: Space Walz

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
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