Home >> Sci & Tech

Astronomers spot mysterious, speedy ripples in dust around star

Scientists have discovered wavelike currents in the accretion disk around a red dwarf star 32 light-years from Earth.

Scientists were searching for planets forming in the large disk of dust surrounding a young star when they came across a surprise: fast-moving, wavelike curves racing across the disk like currents in water.

The team first saw the five structures in data from the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile. When the researchers reexamined the images taken with the Hubble Space Telescope in 2010 and 2011, they managed to spot the same features ? but in new locations.

The newly spotted features are running away at terrific speeds. The outermost ones are moving fast enough to escape the star's gravitational pull, officials said in the statement.

The scenario is still abstract and it will take a lot of continued observation with the Very Large Telescope and other instruments to determine exactly what's causing the racing waves.

Marshall Perrin, a researcher at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Maryland, who was not involved with the study, wrote in the "News and Views" column, "Cases such as that of AU Mic, in which disks can be imaged in great detail but any planets present are unseen, are likely to remain more common than directly imaged planets."

The new research was featured on Oct. 7 in the journal Nature.