- Image of the disc around HD 163296
- The left image shows the reconstruction of images in two parts of the near-infrared spectrum (H and K). The green ellipse traces the location of the newly discovered ring inside which the dust was found. The white ellipse represents the orbit of the Earth around the Sun placed in this system in order to show the scale of the picture and the extraordinarily fine details that are revealed in this image. The right image is a reconstructed image of the VLTI observations using a model of HD 163296 with a central star surrounded by a disc. The comparison of this model with the observed images (left image) allows the astronomers to infer the properties of the inner regions around the young star.
Astronomers belonging to the AMBER consortium have reconstructed a detailed picture of the inner disc of matter around the young star HD 163296. Young stars are surrounded by discs of dust and gas and scientists believe that it is in these discs that planets are born. Dusty grains in the disc stick to each other to make larger lumps that in turn also aggregate together. This growth is expected to continue until rocky bodies about the size of the Earth are formed.
The team used data that was thoroughly analysed earlier this year (see Benisty et al. 2009) but, now, for the first time, the astronomers have been able to reconstruct an image of such a young object, with minimal assumptions, thanks to a powerful mathematical algorithm. The resulting image has the detail you would normally expect from a telescope with a mirror over 130 metres across, far bigger than any currently in existence. To gain further precision, the team combined the VLT Interferometer observations with data from CHARA, Keck and IOTA interferometers.
More information :
ESO announcement 1058
CNRS press release
A&A press release
Article published in Astronomy and Astrophysics journal : "Milli-arcsecond images of the Herbig Ae star HD 163296", S. Renard, F. Malbet, M. Benisty, E. Thiébaut et J.-P. Berger.
Announcement at the JENAM conference in Lisbon