Press Releases

DATE2024.03.01 #Press Releases

Radiation from massive stars shapes planetary systems

Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS)
School of Science, The University of Tokyo

Summary of Presentations

How do planetary systems such as the Solar System form? To find out, led by Olivier Berné, CNRS, an international research team, including members from Europe, US, Canada, and Japan, studied a stellar nursery, the Orion Nebula, using the James Webb Space Telescope and Atacama Large Submillimeter/Millimeter Array (ALMA). By observing a protoplanetary disc named d203-506, they have discovered the key role played by massive stars in the formation of such nascent planetary systems, whose ages are less than a million years old.

These stars, which are around 10 times more massive, and more importantly 100,000 times more luminous than the Sun, expose any planets forming in such systems nearby to very intense ultraviolet radiation. Depending on the mass of the star at the centre of the planetary system, this radiation can either help planets to form, or alternatively prevent them from doing so by dispersing their matter. JWST peer through dust clouds in the Orion Nebula to allow us to accurately measure the mass and temperature of the gas in the protoplanetary disk, while ALMA observations estimate the mass of the central star, which enable for the first time to provide the rate of the gas dissipation from the system. In the Orion Nebula, the scientists found that, due to the intense irradiation from massive stars, a Jupiter-like planet would not be able to form in the planetary system d203-506.

This paper, due to be published in Science on March 1, 2024 shows with unprecedented precision the decisive role played by massive stars in shaping planetary systems, and opens up new perspectives on how such systems form. Refer to this paper for details.

Hubble image of the Orion Nebula, and a zoom in on the protoplanetary disc d203-506 taken with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).
© NASA/STScI/Rice Univ./C.O'Dell et al / O. Berné, I. Schrotter, PDRs4All

Professor Emeritus Takashi Onaka of the Department of Astronomy was part of the research team.

This release is based on the press alert from CNRS.
and has been modified. For details, see the research article in Science.