Saturday, December 21, 2013

TW Hydrae: The Planet That Shouldn"t Exist

In a physical world that contains phenomena such as pulsars, neutron stars, and black holes, one would think that we have a pretty good grasp on the basics--how our universe evolves and functions; however, you might be surprised to know that some of the basics are actually difficult to discern. One of those problematic areas is planetary formation. That"s right.. .we really have a somewhat-amateur understanding of how planets form, despite actually living (and evolving) on one.

Our current models say that our solar system, and other planetary systems circling other stars, form from a protoplanetary accretion disk encircling a young star. This elliptical disk of material is typically comprised of gas, ice, rock, and grain. These build up slowly before ultimately coalescing into a planet, shaped by gravity. This process is thought to take tens of millions of years to occur from start to finish, and of course the amount of material concentrated around the protoplanetary disk dictates the number of planets a star has (and their size), which means that the planets should all form during a similar time-frame and there should also come a period when planetary formation is no longer possible.

However, we may have to rethink this theory. Find out why at:


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