Space

Astronomers Spot a Moon-Forming Disk Around a Super-Jupiter Exoplanet

Recently, astronomers have discovered protoplanetary disks around certain stars. Their discovery helped usher in new work on the theory of planet formation. But planets are not objects formed from disks of matter in space. The moon is too. Now, scientists led by Dr. Tomas Stolker of Leiden University and his team have thoroughly studied the characteristics of the “proto-moon” disk surrounding a “super Jupiter” exoplanet about 500 light years away.

The planet GQ Lupi B orbits its parent star about 20 times the distance from the sun to Jupiter. In addition, this planet is much heavier than our last gas giant. This exoplanet was first discovered in 2004 and has always been a concern. Scientists have been trying to determine whether it was formed through a typical planetary formation process, which would actually form a huge planet. Or, it may be formed by a process similar to stars, and eventually become an object called a brown dwarf.

This increase in interest has led to more data on GQ Lupi B. Dr. Stolker and his team collected some of the data using two instruments on a very large telescope: NACO (Near Infrared Imager) and MUSE (Visible Light Spectroscope). Using NACO, the team looked at the heat distribution of the disk around GQ Lupi B. The temperature of the surrounding disk is much lower than that of the planet’s atmosphere, which led the researchers to speculate that there may be a “hole” in the ring where the moon began to merge. But it may also be affected by the planet’s own magnetic field.

MUSE provides different images. With it, the researchers observed H-α radiation, which allowed them to detect features in the planet’s atmosphere. They realized that the planet was still growing, and it used material from its protolunar disk or obtained material from the protoplanetary disk of its star.

Despite all the attention, GQ Lupi B’s research still lacks a key component: the mid-infrared range. These spectra will help astronomers understand the thermal properties of the disk and determine whether the moon really formed there. Fortunately, this wavelength is the wavelength that the James Webb Space Telescope hopes to begin monitoring as soon as possible. Unfortunately, researchers will have to wait in line in front of the telescope, because after multiple delays and cost overruns, its demand will be very high. But once it is fully operational, you should collect some extra light from this interesting system, and maybe even capture images of one or two out-of-system satellites.

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