herschel star Herschel Space Telescope identities star past prime that can create planets

The Herschel Space Telescope, operated by the European Space Agency (ESA), has identified a star presumed to be too old to create new planets, but which appears to be doing just that.

The Herschel Space Telescope, operated by the European Space Agency (ESA), has identified a star presumed to be too old to create new planets, but which appears to be doing just that.

 
The TW Hydrae star is a whopping 10 million years old. It is technically “young” when compared to other stars, but it was believed to be past its prime, which means it should no longer be able to create new planets.
 
Those accepted beliefs in the science community might now be shattered, however, as the star appears to have such a large mass of material swirling around it that it could make dozens of new planets in the future.
 
“We didn't expect to see so much gas around this star,” said Edwin Bergin of the University of Michigan, lead author of the study. “Typically stars of this age have cleared out their surrounding material, but this star still has enough mass to make the equivalent of 50 Jupiters.”
 
herschel star Herschel Space Telescope identities star past prime that can create planets
This artist's concept illustrates the planet-forming disk around TW Hydrae.
 
Using newly-developed techniques to figure out the weight of the disks around a star that form planets, the scientists were able to discover evidence that suggests TW Hydrae's parenting days are not over.
 
“Before, we had to use a proxy to guess the gas quantity in the planet-forming disks,” said Paul Goldsmith, a scientist for Herschel from NASA, which also worked on the project. “This is another example of Herschel's versatility and sensitivity yielding important new results about star and planet formation.”
 
Astronomically-speaking the voluminous star is fairly close to Earth, just 176 light years away, and it has been the subject of considerable study by astronomers. These latest findings, published in the Nature journal, could have a huge impact on how we view the creative abilities of stars.
 
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech