Click for original image.
Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope’s images taken five years apart have captured the changing shadows cast by a star’s inner accretion disk onto its outer accretion disk.
Those images are to the right, reduced and rearranged to post here. From the caption:
Comparison images from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, taken several years apart, have uncovered two eerie shadows moving counterclockwise across a disc of gas and dust encircling the young star TW Hydrae. The discs are tilted face-on as seen from Earth and so give astronomers a bird’s-eye view of what’s happening around the star.
The [top] image, taken in 2016, shows just one shadow [A] at the 11 o’clock position. This shadow is cast by an inner disc that is slightly inclined to the outer disc and so blocks starlight. The picture on the [bottom] shows a second shadow that emerged from yet another nested disc at the 7 o’clock position, as photographed in 2021. What was originally the inner disc is marked [B] in this later view.
The shadows rotate around the star at different rates like the hand on a clock. They are evidence for two unseen planets that have pulled dust into their orbits. This makes them slightly inclined to each other. This is a visible-light photo taken with the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph. Artificial colour has been added to enhance details.
An artist’s conception of the system, as seen from an oblique angle, is available here. All told, this solar system of disks kind of resembles a spinning gyroscope, with its different rings tilted at different angles to conserve angular momentum.
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