UA Science

Image courtesy of Ruobing Dong

Computer Simulations Shed Light on the Birth of Planets

Planets form in protoplanetary disks, which are gaseous and dusty circumstellar disks surrounding newborn stars. In these systems, the forming planets gravitationally interact with the disk, and create structures. One type of such structures is annular gaps opened by planets, which has been identified in resolved observations of a few disks, such as HL Tau and TW Hya. However, in each of these two systems, there are a pair of gaps that appear to be too narrow and too close to each other to be explained by conventional methods of gap opening by planets. With collaborators, Steward Bok Fellow Ruobing Dong proposes that these structures can be explained by a special type of gap opening caused by low mass planets in a low viscosity environment. Conventional models usually invoke relatively massive planets, such as Saturn and Jupiter, to explain observed gaps in disks; in contrast, the new model makes use of super-Earths, planets with sizes...

Image by Jon Morse (University of Colorado)

A Sharp Look at the Wind from a Dying Star

Eta Carinae is perhaps the most interesting star in the Milky Way. It is very unstable and has ejected lots of material into space in the last few hundred years. Understanding how Eta Carinae drives its powerful wind can provide clues to the late evolutionary stages of very massive stars. To test whether our ideas of its unique stellar wind are correct, Steward astronomers used the 6.5 meter Clay Telescope...

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