Dutch astronomers photograph possible toddler planet by chance

May 8, 2018, Netherlands Research School for Astronomy
Dutch astronomers photograph possible toddler planet by chance
An infrared image of the binary CS Cha with the newly discovered companion in the dotted circle. After a mouse click you can see the image viewed with special polarization filters that make dust discs and exoplanets visible. The companion seems to have his own dust disc. Credit: C. Ginski & SPHERE

An international team of astronomers headed by Dutch researchers from Leiden University has coincidently found a small companion around the young double star CS Cha. The astronomers examined the dust disc of the binary, while they stumbled upon the companion. The researchers suspect that it is a planet in his toddler years that is still growing. The astronomers used the SPHERE instrument on the European Very Large Telescope in Chile. They will soon publish their findings in an article that is accepted by the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The binary star CS Cha and his special companion are located some six hundred light years away from Earth in a star formation area in the southern constellation Chameleon. The double star is just two to three million years young. The researchers wanted to study the star to search for a dust disc and for planets in the making.

During their research on the binary star, the astronomers saw a small dot on the edge of their images. The researchers dived into the archives and discovered the dot, but much fainter, also on 19 year old photographs taken with the Hubble Space Telescope and on 11 year old photographs of the Very Large Telescope. Thanks to the old photographs, the astronomers were able to show that the companion moves with the binary and that they belong together.

What the companion looks like and how it was formed is unclear. The researchers tried to fit various models on the observations, but they do not give a hundred percent certainty. The companion may be a small brown dwarf star, but it can also be a big super-Jupiter.

An infrared image of the binary star and the newly discovered companion, but now viewed with special polarization filters that make dust discs and exoplanets visible. The companion seems to have his own dust disc. Credit: C. Ginski & SPHERE

Lead author Christian Ginski (Leiden Observatory, Leiden University) explains: "The most exciting part is that the light of the companion is highly polarized. Such a preference in the direction of polarization usually occurs when light is scattered along the way. We suspect that the companion is surrounded by his own dust disc. The tricky part is that the disc blocks a large part of the light and that is why we can hardly determine the mass of the companion. So it could be a brown dwarf but also a super-Jupiter in his toddler years. The classical planet-forming-models can't help us."

In the future, the researchers want to examine the star and the companion in more detail. They want to use the international ALMA telescope on the Chajnantor plateau in the North Chilean Andes.

Infographic of the binary star CS Cha and its surrounding dust disc (left) with the newly discovered companion (right). The companion is located at more than 214 times the distance earth-sun fromthe binary, but clearly belongs to the system. The whole system is about 165 parsec (538 light years) away from Earth. Credit: C. Ginski/G.A. Muro Arena
SPHERE

SPHERE is the abbreviation of Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch instrument. It is a powerful planet hunter that is attached to the European Very Large Telescope at Cerro Paranal in northern Chile. The instrument has partly been developed in the Netherlands. SPHERE can make direct images of exoplanets and discs around . The instrument bypasses the bright star and looks specifically at polarized that is reflected by the atmosphere of an exoplanet or the around a star.

Explore further: SPHERE reveals fascinating zoo of discs around young stars

More information: First direct detection of a polarized companion outside of a resolved circumbinary disk around CS Cha. , accepted for publication in Astronomy and Astrophysics. arxiv.org/abs/1805.02261

Related Stories

SPHERE reveals fascinating zoo of discs around young stars

April 11, 2018

The SPHERE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile allows astronomers to suppress the brilliant light of nearby stars in order to obtain a better view of the regions surrounding them. This collection of new ...

Low-mass companion found inside debris disc of a nearby star

December 12, 2016

(Phys.org)—Astronomers have uncovered a new low-mass companion residing inside a massive debris disc surrounding a nearby star designated HD 206893. The discovery could provide new important clues on how low-mass stellar ...

Planet Formation in Action? (w/ Video)

February 24, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope an international team of astronomers has been able to study the short-lived disc of material around a young star that is in the early stages of making a planetary system. ...

Sharpest view ever of dusty disc around aging star

March 9, 2016

As they approach the ends of their lives many stars develop stable discs of gas and dust around them. This material was ejected by stellar winds, whilst the star was passing through the red giant stage of its evolution. These ...

Recommended for you

Superflares from young red dwarf stars imperil planets

October 18, 2018

The word "HAZMAT" describes substances that pose a risk to the environment, or even to life itself. Imagine the term being applied to entire planets, where violent flares from the host star may make worlds uninhabitable by ...

Astronomers catch red dwarf star in a superflare outburst

October 18, 2018

New observations by two Arizona State University astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have caught a red dwarf star in a violent outburst, or superflare. The blast of radiation was more powerful than any such outburst ...

Blazar's brightness cycle confirmed by NASA's Fermi mission

October 18, 2018

A two-year cycle in the gamma-ray brightness of a blazar, a galaxy powered by a supermassive black hole, has been confirmed by 10 years of observations from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. The findings were announced ...

Magnetic fields may be the key to black hole activity

October 17, 2018

Collimated jets provide astronomers with some of the most powerful evidence that a supermassive black hole lurks in the heart of most galaxies. Some of these black holes appear to be active, gobbling up material from their ...

Astronomers find a cosmic Titan in the early universe

October 17, 2018

An international team of astronomers has discovered a titanic structure in the early Universe, just two billion years after the Big Bang. This galaxy proto-supercluster, nicknamed Hyperion, is the largest and most massive ...

0 comments

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.