NASA researchers made a discovery almost ten years ago that they could not explain. Using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope they noticed what some call “planet-forming disks” in the proximity of newer stars glow with infrared light and are heated by starlight. They also discovered that there was more infrared light coming from an unidentified source.
Thanks to new three-dimensional models developed by NASA, scientists now have a theory to explain why these particular stars give off an unexpected amount of infrared light. The three-dimensional models of planet-forming disks indicate an answer. The researchers now believe that dust and gas suspended over the disks on huge magnetic loops similar to those viewed on the Sun take in starlight and glow with the additional infrared light.
Their latest studies pull it all together by allowing them to calculate just how starlight moves over the disk and its unique atmosphere. This results in this particular atmosphere absorbing and re-radiating the additional infrared light.
Neal Turner, spokes-member of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California reported: “If you could somehow stand on one of these planet-forming disks and look at the star in the center through the disk atmosphere, you would see what looks like a sunset.” Their 3-D models also demonstrate how the planet-forming material around the stars is moved and molded until it gradually changes into asteroids, comets and even planets.
Turner added: “The starlight-intercepting material lies not in a halo and not in a traditional disk either, but in a disk atmosphere supported by magnetic fields. Such magnetized atmospheres were predicted to form as the disk drives gas inward to crash onto the growing star.” Turner concluded that they intend on testing these new ideas by utilizing huge “ground-based telescopes” combined into “interferometers” which process information from numerous telescopes.
(Image courtesy of Wikipedia)