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Astronomers first record structure indicating birth of a planet

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Astronomers first record structure indicating birth of a planet

While monkeys without tails on the third planet from the Sun enlighten (and rehearse) ways to attack each other, a new world is caught in full labor, 520 light years away, in what may be the first direct evidence of the birth of a planet outside the Solar System to be recorded by telescopes.

The poetic image comes from the VLT, ESO's main telescope quartet, the European Southern Observatory, in Chile. Using the Sphere instrument, the researchers observed in detail a disk of gas and dust circulating around the young star AB Aurigae, in the constellation of Coachman.

Four years ago, Alma's radio telescopes, also in Chile, had already detected a planet-forming disk around the star, still in its first million years of life, and noticed a spiral pattern in it.

It was the tip for a closer look, obtained with Sphere. With this instrument, specially designed to capture infrared light from young and forming planets, the researchers were able not only to register the internal spiral arms suggested by Alma's observations, but also to notice a twisted structure in one of the spirals, indicating that there, in all probability , a new planet is being born.

"The twisting of the spiral is perfectly reproduced with a model of wave density generated by a planet", write the authors, in a recently published article in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. "Torsion and its apparent orbital motion may very well be the first direct evidence of a connection between a protoplanet candidate and its manifestation as a marked spiral in the distributions of gas and dust."

Judging by the observations, the forming planet must be about 30 astronomical units from its infant sun. It is a colossal distance. Around here, who is practically in the same position is Neptune, the eighth planet. But will you know what is more within this system in formation? Could there be a small Earth being born there, where our telescopes cannot see? It is more than mere speculation.

The research, led by Anthony Boccaletti, from the Paris Observatory, was attended by researchers from France, Taiwan, the USA and Belgium. There are three continents represented and united, in a work carried out by the same species of monkey without a tail that devotes so much of its time to confusion and paranoia.

Humanity has always walked this winding path between the sublime and the low, the future and the past, light and shadow, cooperation and distrust. Science, of course, offers itself as an instrument to illustrate our choices. But it also makes clear the fact that nature is not planted out there, waiting for us to work. In every corner of the sky, she is there, working, making new planets, placing new bets and leaving her message about the irrelevance of our petty disputes. The option for unity or for schizania is not written in the stars. He is ours to do.

This column is published on Mondays, in Folha Corrida.

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