UA student leads research into planet formations using Webb telescope

By Ignacio Ventura
Published: Friday, March 8, 2024 - 4:34pm

james webb near infrared camera
Chris Gunn/NASA
The optics module of the James Webb Space Telescope's primary imager, the Near Infrared Camera, on July 27, 2013.

A published study provides new insight into how planets are formed. With contributions from members of the University of Arizona, the findings were based in part on observation of a young star known as T Cha.

Doctoral student Naman Bajaj led the study, which focused on how long it takes for disks of gas and dust swirling around a new star to form a planet. He explained why T Cha was a good case study.

“It's basically a circular disk of dust and gas swirling around the star itself. And what is interesting about T Cha, the reason why it was studied in the first place, was it has a large dust gap," he said. 

The research involved using the James Webb Space Telescope, which provided images on dispersal of gas into the surrounding space.

T Cha provided unique insights because of its vast dust gap, which is about 30 times the distance from the Earth to the sun. Ilaria Pascucci is a professor in the UA Department of Planetary Sciences.

“I think this was a very interesting discovery, but it's still just one object. And so we would really need a larger sample to see if what we are seeing in T Cha is common," she said.

The study was featured in The Astronomical Journal.

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