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Is it snowing in space? For the first time, researchers have actually managed to spot and PHOTOGRAPH ‘Snow’ in outer space.
Researchers have detected snow in the Constellation of Orion. For the first time ever, they have even managed to take an image of the so-called ‘water snow line’ from which planets are formed.
It seems that for the first time, a team of astronomers has managed to observe the level of water snow around a young star that is beginning to form its own planetary system. The fascinating image captured by the ALMA Telescope array in Chile.
Astronomers were able to spot for the first time a mixture containing ice, water, and snow in the disk of dust and gas that encompasses a young star.
Interestingly in space, snow is believed to play a fundamental part in the formation of alien planets.
Researchers explain that when stars are in their infancy, they are encompassed by a so-to-speak disk of dust and gas that sometimes stretches for billions of kilometers from which eventually planets form. It turns out that in the vicinity of the star water is turn into gas but after a certain distance that waters turn into solid ice thanks to the lower pressure that rule in space.
This transition is referred to by astronomers as a ‘water snow line’ and this new research has been able to photograph it for the first time.
According to astronomers, it is precisely in this water snow line where planets like Earth can form.
Moving further away from the sun and at a certain distance from the water snow line the presence of water ice makes it possible for ‘cosmic snowballs’ to form. The cosmic snowballs eventually form MASSIVE Gas giants like Jupiter in our Solar System. The strange part of the entire discovery is the fact that usually, the disk that surrounds infant star, or the so-called protoplanetary disk isn’t big enough for the water snow line to be seen with telescopes.
Then, everything changes when researchers spotted a strange star called V883 Orionis which they discovered has a fascinating protoplanetary disk that stretches out 40 times the distance between our planet and the sun, a staggering 6 billion kilometers, which is around the same distance between our sun and Pluto.
According to astronomers, the protoplanetary disk expanded because of a ‘dramatic increase’ in the stars brightness. The star V883 Orionis is located in the Orion Constellation and can only be seen with the aid of telescopes.
However, since the disk was so extensive, researchers were able to take a peak, for the first time, at the water snow line.
According to experts, the increase in the starts brightness is attributed to large amounts of protoplanetary disk material falling on the star’s surface.
Speaking of size, V883 Orionis is around 30 percent more massive than our sun; the stars outburst makes it 400 times brighter and hotter than our star.
According to lead author Professor Lucas Cieza:
“The ALMA observations came as a surprise to us,” said Lucas Cieza from the Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile. “Our observations were designed to look for disc fragmentation leading to planet formation. We saw none of that; instead, we found what looks like a ring at 40 AU. This illustrates well the transformational power of ALMA, which delivers exciting results even if they are not the ones we were looking for.”
“The discovery that these outbursts may blast the water snow line to about ten times its typical radius is very significant for the development of good planetary formation models,” says the European Southern Observatory, which helps operate and maintain the ALMA array. “Such outbursts are believed to be a stage in the evolution of most planetary systems, so this may be the first observation of a common occurrence. In that case, this observation from ALMA could contribute significantly to a better understanding of how planets throughout the universe formed and evolved.”