Featured Image: A Gap in TW Hydrae

This remarkable image (click for the full view!) is a high-resolution map of the 870 µm light emitted by the protoplanetary disk surrounding the young solar analog TW Hydrae. A recent study led by Sean Andrews (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) presents these observations, obtained with the long-baseline configuration of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) at an unprecedented spatial resolution of ~1 AU. The data represent the distribution of millimeter-sized dust grains in this disk, revealing a beautiful concentric ring structure out to a radial distance of 60 AU from the host star. The apparent gaps in the disk could have any of three origins:

  1. Chemical: apparent gaps can be caused by condensation fronts of volatiles
  2. Magnetic: apparent gaps can be caused by radial magnetic pressure variations
  3. Dynamic: actual gaps can be caused by the clearing of dust by young planets.

For more information, check out the paper below!


Sean M. Andrews et al 2016 ApJ 820 L40. doi:10.3847/2041-8205/820/2/L40