What did James Webb Telescope spot this time in deep space?
Scientists get excited when they find planets that orbit around different stars, but these planets don’t tell us everything we need to know about the stars’ surroundings unless we also look at the rocks and ice that orbit around our sun, said Reuters.
In a study that was published in the journal Nature Astronomy, scientists used the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to find out more about similar features around the Fomalhaut star, which is a bright object in the Milky Way galaxy near us.
Seeing the three dusty rings around the star Fomalhaut gives us all the information we have so far about structures like these outside of our solar system.
Fomalhaut is 25 light years from Earth and is one of the brightest stars we can see at night. It is the brightest star in the sign Piscis Austrinus, which is in the south. It is 440 million years old and 16 times brighter than our sun.
Astronomers first found the single belt of debris in 1983. However, the James Webb Space Telescope found two more rings near the star. The largest one is in the middle of the three.
Andras Gaspar, the lead author of the study and an astronomer at the University of Arizona, said, “Like our solar system, other planetary systems have discs of asteroids and comets, which are planetesimals left over from the time when planets were being formed. They keep grinding themselves down to micron-sized particles through collisions.”
Fomalhaut is about 14 billion miles away, which is about 150 times farther than Earth is from the sun.
Around Fomalhaut, no planets have been found, but scientists think that the rings were made by the gravity of planets that can’t be seen.
There are two of these belts in our solar system. The main asteroid belt is between Mars and Jupiter, and the Kuiper belt is past the ice giant Neptune.
The main asteroid belt is kept in place by Jupiter, the biggest planet in our solar system. Neptune shapes the inner edge of the Kuiper belt, which is home to the small planets Pluto and Eris as well as other icy bodies of different sizes.
Gaspar said, “The fact that we see a secondary gap in the system is a strong sign that there is an ice giant in the system.”
Schuyler Wolff, an astronomer at the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory and co-author of the study, said, “Nearly all of the resolved images of debris discs so far had been for the cold, outer regions similar to the sun’s Kuiper belt, like Fomalhaut’s outer belt.”
Wolff also said, “MIRI can now separate the warmer belts of material that are similar to our main asteroid belt.”
“Planets are made in the discs of matter that form around young stars. Wolff said, “To fully understand how this formation process works, you need to know how these discs form and change over time.”
“There are still a lot of questions about how the dust in these discs comes together to make planet babies, how the atmospheres of planets form, etc. Debris discs are left over from this process of making planets, and their shape can tell us a lot about the number of planets and how they moved over time,” Wolff said.