Water ice detected at the surface of a distant star's disk

April 7, 2016 by Tomasz Nowakowski, Phys.org report

Positions of the spectra extracted region shown in the L’ image of HD100546 disk. A 0.162′′ square regions were set along the major (SE-NW) and minor (SW-NE) axis of the disk at the position of 0.360′′, 0.522′′, 0.684′′, 0.846′′, and 1.008′′ from the central star. Credit: Honda et al., 2016.
(Phys.org)—A team of Japanese astronomers has recently discovered water ice at the surface of a distant star's disk. Using the Near-Infrared Coronagraphic Imager (NICI) installed on the Gemini South Telescope in Chile, the researchers, led by Mitsuhiko Honda at the Kurume University School of Medicine's Department of Physics, found that a circumstellar disk around the star HD 100546 contains water ice grains. The findings are reported in a paper published online on Mar. 31 in the arXiv repository.

HD 100546 is a 10 million-year-old star located some 320 light years from the Earth. It is accompanied by a fairly flat circumstellar disk in an advanced evolutionary state residing at a distance of 0.2 to four AU, and again from 13 to a few hundred AU from the star. The Hubble Space Telescope revealed that the disk features some complex spiral patterns. However, the nature and origin of these patterns remains uncertain.

The star was observed using NICI on Mar. 31, 2012. This instrument is a coronagraphic camera designed to survey for and image large, extra-solar gaseous planets. It allows astronomers to search for large Jupiter planets around nearby stars by spectrally differencing two images taken in or next to strong, near-infrared methane features found in the atmosphere of large, Jovian-type planets.

The scientists extracted the spectra of different regions of the around HD 100546. Scattered light observations complement thermal observations and constrain models based on spectroscopic data. NICI helped them unveil the 3.1 µm absorption feature in the scattered light spectrum of the observed disk. They link this feature with the presence of grains.

According to the research team, the shallowness of this ice absorption feature can be explained by the loss of at the disk surface.

"In almost all the regions, relatively shallow three µm absorption feature is present in their spectra likely due to water ice grains, indicating that the water ice grains present in the disk surface," the paper reads.

Previous studies claimed that the water ice grains can be quickly destroyed at the disk surface around stars like HD 100546 due to a strong ultraviolet photodesorption.

The discovery made by Honda and colleagues could provide new insights on planet formation theories as water ice is believed to play many important roles in the process of forming planetesimals. For instance, ice enhances the surface density of solid material in the cold outer part of a protoplanetary disk, which promotes the formation of massive cores of gaseous planets.

"The ice sublimation/condensation front called snowline is considered to be the boundary of the forming regions of the terrestrial and Jovian planets. Snowline is also suggested as a possible forming site of the planetesimals," the researchers wrote in the paper.

The astronomers noted that in order to comprehensively understand the water ice distribution in the protoplanetary disks, other effects on the depth of water ice absorption should be investigated in future theoretical studies. They suggest that further investigations should focus on the grain size, shape and its structure, as well as ice/rock ratio (abundance), dust settling, turbulent mixing, and so on.

"Further observations with better photometric accuracy are strongly desired," the scientists concluded.

Explore further: Astronomers peer into the 'amniotic sac' of a planet-hosting star

More information: Water ice at the surface of HD 100546 disk, arXiv:1603.09512 [astro-ph.EP] arxiv.org/abs/1603.09512

We made near infrared multicolor imaging observations of a disk around Herbig Be star HD100546 using Gemini/NICI. K (2.2,μm), H2O ice (3.06,μm), and L'(3.8,μm) disk images were obtained and we found the 3.1,μm absorption feature in the scattered light spectrum, likely due to water ice grains at the disk surface. We compared the observed depth of the ice absorption feature with the disk model based on cite{Oka2012} including water ice photodesorption effect by stellar UV photons. The observed absorption depth can be explained by the both disk models with/without photodesorption effect within the measurement accuracy, but slightly favors the model with photodesorption effects, implying that the UV photons play an important role on the survival/destruction of ice grains at the Herbig Ae/Be disk surface. Further improvement on the accuracy of the observations of the water ice absorption depth is needed to constrain the disk models.

Related Stories

Planetary influences on young stellar disks

December 14, 2015

A newborn star typically has a disk of gas and dust from which planets develop as the dust grains collide, stick together and grow. Stars older than about five million years lack evidence for these disks, however, suggesting ...

The water reservoir in a young planetary system

November 15, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Astronomers once thought that the process of star formation was more-or-less controlled by the simple coalescence of material by gravity, leading eventually to a new star. But they have come to realize that ...

Recommended for you

See a passing comet this Sunday

December 14, 2018

On Sunday, Dec. 16, the comet known as 46P/Wirtanen will make one of the 10 closest comet flybys of Earth in 70 years, and you may even be able to see it without a telescope.

Mars InSight lander seen in first images from space

December 14, 2018

On Nov. 26, NASA's InSight mission knew the spacecraft touched down within an 81-mile-long (130-kilometer-long) landing ellipse on Mars. Now, the team has pinpointed InSight's exact location using images from HiRISE, a powerful ...

Video: Enjoying the Geminids from above and below

December 14, 2018

On the night of December 13, into the morning of December 14, 2018, tune into the night sky for a dazzling display of fireballs. Thanks to the International Space Station, this sky show – the Geminids meteor shower—will ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Apr 08, 2016
".. Indicating that the water ice grains present in the disk surface."
Disk = cloud or fog, and the word area is extremely inappropriate.
If there are traces of water on the basis of them not build the entire image formation of the new body.
From previously collected, the data from our system body will have a composition as most cold body along little presence of water.
Da Schneib
5 / 5 (1) Apr 08, 2016
I'll be interested to see how this affects current hypotheses (and theories) of planet formation.

Most people don't know it, but there's quite a bit of water in the mantle. In fact there's at least as much water in the asthenosphere as in all the world's oceans, and maybe as much as three times as much. That's almost certainly primordial, in other words it was already in the planetesimals the Earth originally was created from, rather than resulting from the early and late bombardments during the Hadean.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.