Scientists have found "weird and wild" planet-forming discs around two young stars approximately 450 light-years from Earth, obtaining their clearest-ever picture of protoplanetary discs in a binary star system, the European Southern Observatory said.
In the press release, the ESO said the result goes a long way in explaining why many exoplanets - planets located outside our Solar System - have strange, eccentric or inclined orbits.
Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, or ALMA, observatory in Chile's Atacama desert, the astronomers found planet-forming gas discs orbiting two stars in the binary system HK Tauri - in the constellation of Taurus (The Bull) - that are "out of alignment with each other by at least 60 degrees," the ESO said.
In a single-star system, such as our Solar System, flattened protoplanetary discs swirl around a growing central protostar.
But the complexity is greater in the case of HK Tauri and other binary star systems, the most common star-formation pattern, the release said, noting that "when the orbits of the stars and the protoplanetary discs are in different planes, any planets that may be forming can end up in highly eccentric and tilted orbits."
"Although there have been earlier observations indicating that this type of misaligned system existed, the new ALMA observations of HK Tauri show much more clearly what is really going on in one of these systems," Rachel Akeson of the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at the California Institute of Technology said.
While the astronomers say this is a "remarkable individual" case, they want to determine through future research if this type of system is common in our galaxy, the Milky Way, the ESO said. EFE