Astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Institution have developed a new way to search for planets forming inside protoplanetary disks. They were able to identify signs of the existence of a young planet the size of Neptune or Saturn inside such a disk. The results of the study are published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Scientists have observed the protoplanetary disk LkCa 15, located at a distance of 518 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Taurus, using the ALMA radio interferometer in Chile. About 42 astronomical units from the star, about 42 times the distance from the Sun to the Earth, astronomers found a dust ring with two separate clumps and arcs of matter orbiting inside it. They are at an angular distance of 120 degrees from each other.
Both clumps were located at the Lagrange points L4 and L5, and between them there was a planet that caused dust accumulations. The results showed that the age of the young celestial body reaches only 1-3 million years. Although direct observation of the planet is not yet possible due to technological limitations. Scientists believe that further observations using ALMA provide additional evidence supporting its nature.