Scientists have discovered many exoplanets over the years, but they have yet to discover satellites orbiting these worlds outside our solar system. Now a group of astronomers discovered (PDF) what is considered to be the area in which exo moons are located for first time… Miriam Benisti and a team from the University of Grenoble have discovered a dust disk – a region of moon formation – around a young exoplanet in the PDS 70 star system, located 370 light years from Earth.
The team discovered the first protoplanet (PDS 70b) in the system back in 2018 with the ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile. A year later, they found another young gas giant (PDS 70c) using the same equipment. Based on the available data, astronomers believe that the star system is only 10 million years old, and that both gas giants are several times larger than Jupiter. To learn more about the system, they focused all other possible tools on it, including the Atacama Large Millimeter / Submillimeter Array. ALMA consists of 66 shortwave radio dishes, and its observations have revealed dust around the PDS 70c.
The disk of dust extends slightly wider than between the Earth and the Sun, and there is enough mass for three moons the same size as ours. Benisti says the moons may have already formed, but there is no conclusive evidence yet because they cannot be seen with ALMA. According to The scienceThe Extremely Large Telescope, which will become the world’s largest optical telescope when built, may be able to see if moons have already formed around the protoplanet. However, the telescope is still under construction and scientific operations will not begin. until 2027 in the near future.
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