Scientists shocked by discovery deep in space

Scientists shocked by discovery deep in space

It's an important find that could lead to breakthroughs in the search for new exoplanets.

Scientists are astonished at what they’ve found sitting deep in space: a massive, planet-forming disk surrounding a red dwarf star. A group of scientists and astronomers determined that this star was surrounded by the oldest known circumstellar disk, which is a ring of gas and dust in which planets can form as material starts to clump together.

It’s rare to find such circumstellar disks around red dwarfs, and this star, AWI0005x3s is believed to have had this disk for an incredibly long time. Most disks fade away after less than 30 million years, but this disk is at least 45 million years old, according to a statement from NASA.

Scientists were fortunate to discover the disk, as it took the help of citizen scientists who were able to spot the object. It could be an important hunting ground for new exoplanets.

The discovery could help scientists understand why these dwarf disks are so rare.

“Most disks of this kind fade away in less than 30 million years,” said Steven Silverberg, a graduate student at Oklahoma University and lead author of the paper. “This particular red dwarf is a candidate member of the Carina association, which would make it around 45 million years old. It’s the oldest red dwarf system with a disk we’ve seen in one of these associations.”

“I’ve loved astronomy since childhood and wanted to be part of the space program, as did every boy my age,” adds Milton Bosch, a citizen scientist co-author from California. “I feel very fortunate to be part of such a great group of dedicated people, and am thrilled to partake in this adventure of discovery and be a co-author on this paper.”

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