September 4, 2012

Simulating Birth Of Planets Helping The Hunt For More

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com

[ Watch the Video: The Birth of a Planet Simulation ]

Planetary researchers have a new tool in their artillery when trying to hunt for extrasolar planets.

Scientists can now use simulated models developed by a group of scientists of how planets are born, helping the hunt for extrasolar planets.

Planets generally form when a molecular cloud collapses into a young star. As the leftover gas and dust form a disk around the star, the particulates inside the disk begin to collide and coalesce over millions of years, which forms objects until a planet eventually takes shape.

Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin are modeling and simulating these protostellar disks.

The simulations model factors like the turbulence and temperature of the disks, which affect how and where planets form.

In a disk that is too turbulent, the particles move too fast and bounce off each other. The less turbulent disks provide a greater chance for the particles to collide and stick together.

These discoveries are a result of the complexity of the models and simulations, which cover a timescale of millions of years.

The Ranger supercomputer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) helped contribute computing during the project.

Currently, we know of almost 2,400 planets that are awaiting to be confirmed, compared to just one solitary extrasolar planet in 1988.

Having a better understanding of the conditions that are most favorable for planet formation will help astronomers discover more extrasolar planets. This research will also hep provide greater understanding of the evolution of Earth, and our solar system.

Listen to the podcast “How Planets Form” with redOrbit's Dr. John Millis and planet-hunting expert Dr. Eric Mamajek of the University of Rochester.