Artist’s impression of GQ Lupi B (front left) and the main star GQ Lupi (right).
Devon1980 [CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia]
Scientists working to confirm the existence of moons beyond our solar system may have found the signs of such a system, but at the beginning of their history.
A dusty ring surrounding what may be a young super-Jupiter — it’s not confirmed yet if this is a planet-sized object or a star-sized object — could contain growing “exomoons”, a new study suggests.
GQ Lupi B is an object first discovered in 2004 and which came again to astronomers’ attention following the recent study. Astronomers used the powerful Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory in Chile to probe for possible moons amid the dust, in a system some 500 light years away from Earth.
Using infrared or heat-seeking wavelengths, astronomers detected a possible “cavity” in the disc surrounding the object, associated with lower temperatures in the region. One possible explanation is that the dust migrated to that region due to moon formation, although other ideas (such as magnetic fields) haven’t yet been ruled out.
Some astronomers suggest that exomoons could be habitable if they are Earth-sized and orbit giant … [+]
The early results will happily, soon have an opportunity for follow-up. NASA expects to launch its James Webb Space Telescope late in 2021 following more than a decade of delays. The telescope will be adept at infrared observations and could probe the disc in higher resolution from space, where Earth’s atmosphere would not produce any interference. Webb’s observations in the mid-infrared will be especially valuable as it is very difficult to get that spectrum from our planet, the team noted in a statement.
“We could learn much more about the physical and chemical processes in the disc of GQ Lupi B that may enable the formation of moons,” said study leader Tomas Stolker of the Netherlands’ Leiden University, in a statement from the Netherlands Research School for Astronomy.
Given that exomoons are tiny and our ability to study them is still in its infancy, perhaps our best chance may be finding their formation conditions in aggregate, such as what the team proposed. That said, the Hubble Space Telescope spotted possible evidence of an exomoon in 2018, and there are other studies suggesting we may have spotted some already. But more confirmation will be required.
A paper based on the research was accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal.
Source by www.forbes.com