Astrophysics

A Planetary System Is Born?

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Science  14 May 2004:
Vol. 304, Issue 5673, pp. 929
DOI: 10.1126/science.304.5673.929c

Herbig Ae/Be stars are intermediate-mass, pre-main sequence stars, and some have circumstellar disks in which extrasolar planets and planetesimal precursors may lurk. The very young Herbig Be star LkHα234 is embedded in a nebula within the NGC 7129 star formation region. Five spectra taken by Chakraborty et al. over 33 days show large and abrupt variations in the sodium absorption lines of LkHα234. The authors infer that an asteroid-sized solid object (about 100 km in diameter) was in the process of falling from the disk onto the stellar surface and disintegrated about 0.1 to 2 AU above the star. This infall may be just one among many in a very young planetary system where planetesimals either accrete to form larger planets, fall into the star, get ejected from the system, or get pushed to the edge of the system, like comets in the solar system. — LR

Astrophys. J. 606, L69 (2004).

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