Hubble Captures 'Shadow Play' Caused by Possible Planet

Stsci_2017-03_1024

stsci_2017-03 January 7th, 2017

Credit: NASA, ESA, and J. Debes (STScI)

These images, taken a year apart by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, reveal a shadow moving counterclockwise around a gas-and-dust disk encircling the young star TW Hydrae.

The two images at the top, taken by the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, show an uneven brightness across the disk.

Through enhanced image processing (images at bottom), the darkening becomes even more apparent. These enhanced images allowed astronomers to determine the reason for the changes in brightness.

The dimmer areas of the disk, at top left, are caused by a shadow spreading across the outer disk. The dotted lines approximate the shadow's coverage. The long arrows show how far the shadow has moved in a year (from 2015-2016), which is roughly 20 degrees.

Based on Hubble archival data, astronomers determined that the shadow completes a rotation around the central star every 16 years. They know the feature is a shadow because dust and gas in the disk do not orbit the star nearly that quickly. So, the feature must not be part of the physical disk.

The shadow may be caused by the gravitational effect of an unseen planet orbiting close to the star. The planet pulls up material from the main disk, creating a warped inner disk. The twisted disk blocks light from the star and casts a shadow onto the disk's outer region.

Provider: Hubble Space Telescope | STScI

Image Source: http://hubblesite.org/news_release/news/2017-03

Curator: STScI, Baltimore, MD, USA

Image Use Policy: http://hubblesite.org/copyright/

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Image Details

Image Type
Collage
Object Name
TW Hya
Subject - Milky Way
Star > Circumstellar Material > Disk > Protoplanetary

Distance

Universescale1
180 light years

Color Mapping

  Telescope Spectral Band Wavelength
Orange Hubble (STIS) (Clear) -
Stsci_2017-03_1280
×
ID
2017-03
Subject Category
B.3.7.2.1  
Subject Name
TW Hya
Credits
NASA, ESA, and J. Debes (STScI)
Release Date
2017-01-07
Lightyears
180
Redshift
180
Reference Url
http://hubblesite.org/news_release/news/2017-03
Type
Collage
Image Quality
Good
Distance Notes
Facility
Hubble
Instrument
STIS
Color Assignment
Orange
Band
Bandpass
Clear
Central Wavelength
Start Time
Integration Time
Dataset ID
Notes
Coordinate Frame
Equinox
Reference Value
Reference Dimension
Reference Pixel
Scale
Rotation
Coordinate System Projection:
Quality
FITS Header
Notes
Creator (Curator)
STScI
URL
http://hubblesite.org
Name
Space Telescope Science Institute Office of Public Outreach
Email
outreach@stsci.edu
Telephone
410-338-4444
Address
3700 San Martin Drive
City
Baltimore
State/Province
MD
Postal Code
21218
Country
USA
Rights
http://hubblesite.org/copyright/
Publisher
STScI
Publisher ID
stsci
Resource ID
STScI-H-p1703a-f2400x2400.tif
Metadata Date
2018-04-10T16:54:15-04:00
Metadata Version
1.2
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Detailed color mapping information coming soon...

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Universescalefull
180 light years