Tuesday, October 20, 2015
Credit: K. Wagner, D. Apai (U Arizona), M. Kasper (ESO), M. Robberto (STSci)
ESO’s SPHERE, a planet-hunting instrument installed on the Very Large Telescope in Chile, has uncovered an unusual structure around a nearby adolescent star named HD 100453.
HD 100453 lies over 350 light-years away in the constellation of Centaurus (The Centaur), and is engulfed by a swirling disc of gas and dust, visible in red and white in this image. Tantalisingly, two faint spiral arms can be seen extending from the disc, possibly formed due to the influence of as-yet-unseen planets lurking within. This spiral disc is uniquely symmetrical, and is one of the smallest spiral discs ever observed around another star — an impressive demonstration of SPHERE’s capabilities.
SPHERE is a powerful planet finder, letting us directly image alien worlds, and the dusty discs in which they form around stars in the Milky Way. It does this by blocking out the dazzling light from the parent star, which would be found at the centre of the image (in place of the black circle, which is hiding the star and its closest surrounding). Exploring the regions around young stars such as HD 100453 can provide critical clues as to how planets and stars form and grow throughout our galaxy.
Labels: ESO, HD 100453, SPHERE — the Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch instrument