Podcaster: Richard Drumm

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Title: UNAWE Space Scoop – This cosmic eruption could help planets grow

Organization: 365 Days Of Astronomy

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Description: Space scoop, news for children. 

Today’s news: cosmic eruption fall back all around its young star, and helping form new planets in its outer regions

Bio: Richard Drumm is President of the Charlottesville Astronomical Society and President of 3D – Drumm Digital Design, a video production company with clients such as Kodak, Xerox and GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals. He was an observer with the UVa Parallax Program at McCormick Observatory in 1981 & 1982. He has found that his greatest passion in life is public outreach astronomy and he pursues it at every opportunity.

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This is the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast. Today we bring you a new episode in our Space Scoop series. This show is produced in collaboration with Universe Awareness, a program that strives to inspire every child with our wonderful cosmos.

Today’s story is…

This cosmic eruption could help planets grow

Have you ever seen a volcanic eruption for real, in person? 

Or on TV, on the news or in a movie? 

Well, you might have heard of the Cumbre Vieja volcano in La Palma, in the Canary Islands, that erupted back in September. 

Or the January 14, 2022 Hunga Tonga eruption that’s still going on?

Have you noticed the lava & ash that it spews, falling back on the area around the volcano? Makes a big mess, but it builds islands!

A similar process might be happening to young stars. 

Imagine a young star as our volcano. 

But instead of lava and ash, the star spews gas and dust that fall back all around our young star. 

It flattens out into a disc and helps form new planets in the star’s outer regions. 

For the first time, astronomers created a 3D simulation showing what this process could be like. 

This is curious because dust and gas rings have always been thought to form as they are shepherded by the gravity of the planets forming around young stars. 

But in this case, astronomers saw rings even farther out than Neptune is from our Sun. That’s danged far out!

At this distance, there should be a lot less dust this far out than there is closer to the star. 

So how can planets really form in the outer regions of a star?

Astronomers using the world’s fastest astronomical supercomputer, ATERUI II in Japan, found that stellar dust gets this far because the star at the center is actually spitting part of this gas and dust away in opposite directions. 

Think of it as spewing gas jets from its North and South poles.

Gravity pulls dust back down to the outer parts of the disk, very much like a double volcanic ashfall. 

It must be quite a sight!

Hey, here’s a cool fact:

Planets normally form when the disk of gas and dust around a star collapses because of the star’s gravity. 

Having more mass than the disk around it, the star pulls this material in closer. 

After a long time, the gas is gone, while the dust is continuously replaced. 

The dust particles stick together, eventually forming planet embryos called planetesimals and, in the final stage, the planets themselves.

Go to Google, click on Images and type in HL Tau. 

You’ll see the amazing ALMA image from 2014 where we actually can for the first time see the formation of a planetary system. 

It’s the most amazing image! I actually gasped when I first saw it. 

A planetary system caught in the act of forming.

So cool!

Thank you for listening to the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast!

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365 Days of Astronomy

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