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Planeetvormende schijven evolueren verrassend vergelijkbaar

Our solar system probably evolved in the same way as most of the other planetary systems around us. This has been shown by German-Austrian-Dutch research on more than 870 planet-forming disks in the Orion cloud A. The five researchers, including three from the Leiden Observatory, published their findings on Friday in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Astronomers have been searching for a long time for the question whether our solar system is similar to other planetary systems. Until now, astronomers did not know whether there is a decisive factor that determines the evolution of planetary disks around young stars. Now it appears that the mass of a planetary disk actually depends only on its age. The older the disc, the less dust it contains. 

Impression of a planet-forming disk
This impression illustrates what planet-forming disks around young stars often look like. They initially consist of dust and gas that coalesce into rings of dense material. Over time, the solids develop into pebbles that can eventually become planets. (c) MPIA

The researchers analysed more than 870 planet-forming discs in the molecular cloud Orion A, some 1350 light years away. It is a large nearby star-forming region. The cloud, which is located near the famous Orion Nebula, contains compact clusters of stars similar to those in which our Sun formed. The researchers compared the dust disks in Orion A with other disks in our neighbourhood.

SURF computers did in a day what would otherwise take 125 days

The researchers used data from the Herschel space telescope and the ALMA-observatory. Calibrating or equalising data from ALMA dishes would normally have taken months. So the team devised a way that allowed them to use the parallel computers of the Dutch SURF. 

'Our new approach improved the processing speed enormously,' says co-author Raymond Oonk of SURF, Leiden University and ASTRON. 'It took 3000 CPU hours to prepare the data for further analysis. On a normal, non-parallel computer that would take 125 days of computing time. In our case, thanks to parallel processing, it took only a day.'

In the future, the researchers want to see whether the planet-forming discs are influenced by small, faint stars that are close to them. For their research, the researchers had already excluded all stars that were in the vicinity of large, hot stars, but small, weak stars could also exert influence.

Source: NOVA/astronomie.nl

Image above this article: the area that the researchers studied. All the plus signs are planet-forming discs. The blue dots are discs with more than a hundred earth masses. The circle on the right contains the Orion Nebula cluster. It contains large, hot stars that were not included in the study. (c) Van Terwisga et al. / MPIA

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