Direct Images of Disks Unravel Mystery of Planet Formation
The fruits of the SEEDS (Strategic Explorations of Exoplanets and Disks with Subaru) Project, led by Motohide Tamura at NAOJ (National Astronomical Observatory of Japan), are accumulating. Composed of over 100 scientists and 25 institutions, the international consortium of researchers supporting the project has announced another set of stunning findings obtained with the recently commissioned Subaru instrument HiCIAO (High Contrast Instrument for the Subaru Next Generation Adaptive Optics), an upgraded version of its predecessor CIAO (Coronographic Imager with Adaptive Optics). Their initial announcement of a significant discovery came in December, 2009: an exoplanet candidate around a Sun-like star. Now they are announcing another remarkable discovery: direct and sharp images of the protoplanetary disks of two young stars that reveal how planets may have formed within them. No other telescopes, whether ground-based or in space, have ever penetrated so close to a central star, showing the details of its disk.