ALMA Discovers Comet Factory --- New observations of a “dust trap” around a young star solve long-standing planet formation mystery

Astronomers using the new Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have imaged a region around a young star where dust particles can grow by clumping together. This is the first time that such a dust trap has been clearly observed and modelled. It solves a long-standing mystery about how dust particles in discs grow to larger sizes so that they can eventually form comets, planets and other rocky bodies. The results are published in the journal Science on 7 June 2013.

This research was presented in a paper “A major asymmetric dust trap in a transition disk”, by van der Marel et al, to appear in the journal Science on 7 June 2013.

Figure 1
Figure 1: This image from ALMA shows the dust trap in the disc that surrounds the system Oph-IRS 48. The green region shows where the larger particles are located (millimetre-sized) and is the dust trap seen discovered by ALMA. The orange ring shows observations of much finer dust particles (micron-sized) using the VISIR instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope.

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