A recent study shows a different way in which planets are formed


A group of astronomers from the University of Warwick has astounded the global astronomical community with their recent publication on a groundbreaking study that introduces a unique approach to planet formation. Their findings present a never-before-seen method that adds a fascinating twist to our understanding of the cosmos.

While the name they have given this innovative method may not possess the glamour of previous designations, its simplicity aids in comprehension. Termed the “planetary sandwich formation,” this descriptor aims to convey the concept effectively, bridging the gap between scientific discoveries and public understanding.

The researchers propose that the presence of two large planets situated in parallel can serve as a catalyst for the emergence of a new celestial body. In the following explanation, we will delve into the intricate details of this remarkable process that simplifies a complex concept.

This is how small planets are formed

The research conducted by Farzana Meru’s team has centered around an analysis of protoplanetary disks, which are the discs of material surrounding stars where planets can form. These disks possess the composition and characteristics that foster the birth of new planets. However, their recent discovery has shed light on a previously overlooked phenomenon within these disks.

Their findings reveal that when a protoplanetary disk contains two sizable planets, it is possible for a new, smaller planet to emerge between them. This observation has led to the term “sandwich formation” since the newly formed planet occupies a position in the middle of the two larger planets. It is important to note that not every instance of two large planets in such a configuration will result in the creation of a small planet. However, the researchers have observed that this occurrence can be relatively common.

A good explanation

This study’s most intriguing aspect lies in its potential to provide an explanation for the existence of planets such as Uranus or Mars, which have long puzzled scientists due to their disproportionate sizes compared to other planets in the galaxy. The discovery that smaller planets can be surrounded by larger ones offers a compelling rationale for this phenomenon.

The underlying reason behind this occurrence is rather straightforward. When two planets align in parallel, there is a noticeable reduction in the flow of released dust. This diminished flow hinders the formation of a planet of normal size, resulting instead in the creation of a smaller, lower-dimensional planet.

Furthermore, the study yields additional fascinating insights that emphasize the need for more comprehensive investigation into protoplanetary disks. For instance, it confirms that the rings or gaps observed in these disks serve as precise locations where new planets take shape. This alternative perspective challenges the traditional understanding of planet formation, introducing a significant paradigm shift in astronomy with vast implications for future research and discussions.

The research team also underscores the vital role played by the visual materials obtained from the Atacama Cosmology Telescope, which have continuously astounded scientists since their utilization began. Professor Meru highlights how these telescope images offer valuable clues regarding planetary formation and evolution. The team’s enthusiasm for their ongoing achievements and the potential for future breakthroughs is palpable, hinting at an exciting journey of discovery still ahead.