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Lifeline for Planet-forming found in binary star system

Astronomers have discovered a sustaining, planet-forming lifeline in a binary star system. Like a wheel within a wheel, the binary star system called GG Tau-A contains a large, outer disk encircling the entire system as well as an inner disk around the main central star.

This second inner disk has a mass roughly equivalent to that of Jupiter. While observing the system, the team made the exciting discovery of gas clumps present in the region between the two disks.

The new observations suggest that material is being transferred from the outer to the inner disk, creating a sustaining lifeline between the two. “Material flowing through the cavity was predicted by computer simulations but never imaged before. Detecting these clumps indicates that material is moving between the disks, allowing one to feed off the other,” said Anne Dutrey from the Laboratory of Astrophysics, Bordeaux in France.

These observations demonstrate that material from the outer disk can sustain the inner disk for a long time. “This has major consequences for potential planet formation,” he added. GG Tau-A is only a few million years old and lies approximately 460 light-years from the Earth in the Constellation Taurus.

“The findings mean that multiple star systems have a way to form planets, despite their complicated dynamics,” concluded co-author Jeffrey Bary, astronomer at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. The paper was published in the journal Nature.

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