The space telescope photographed a dusty disk surrounding the nearby red dwarf. The star system is very young, only 23 million years old. In its first 10 million years, the star system formed planets, and astronomers have so far discovered two alien worlds orbiting the star.
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has been busy exploring the universe’s wonders. It has made incredible discoveries after more than one year in space. It has taken photographs of some of the most distant starlight galaxies, measured the composition of the atmosphere on distant planets, and recently even confirmed, for the first time, the existence of an alien world. Needless to say, James Webb has become a rockstar in astronomy, aiding in the exploration of the unknown. Now, astronomers pointed the state-of-the-art space telescope to a star system located 32 light-years away called AU Microscopii.
Space dust, planetesimals
The space telescope photographed a dusty disk surrounding the nearby red dwarf. The observations represent the first time astronomers have been able to spy on the star system in infrared wavelengths. Whatmore, the observations provide important clues about the composition of the dusty disk. Au Microscopii, also known as AU Mic, is located in the southern constellation of Microscopium. The star system is very young, only 23 million years old. In its first 10 million years, the star system formed planets, and astronomers have so far discovered two alien worlds orbiting the star.
Remnants of planetesimals
The dusty disk spotted by the James Webb Space Telescope is dominated by the remnants of ancient planetesimals. A planetesimal is defined as a solid object arising during the accumulation of orbiting bodies whose strength is dominated by self-gravity and whose orbital dynamics are not affected by gas drag. This definition of planetesimals encompasses objects larger than approximately one kilometer in the solar nebula. The dusty disk surrounding AU Microscopii is composed mostly of the remnants of planetesimals, which resulted after millions of years of collisions. “A debris disk is continuously replenished by collisions of planetesimals. By studying it, we get a unique window into the recent dynamical history of this system,” said Kellen Lawson of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
What makes this James Webb view so exciting is that astronomers are able to gaze upon a young star system, a young star with young planets and a prominent debris disk. It is bright enough for James Webb to be able to study it in depth with its state-of-the-art instruments. Thanks to Webb’s NIRCam instrument, astronomers could block the intense light originating from the star. This allowed them to study regions of the star system close to the Red Dwarf. As per reports, astronomers were able to observe the disk as close as five astronomical units from the star, which would be the equivalent of the orbit of Jupiter in our star system.