Home News Webb Telescope Makes Breakthrough Discovery: Water Detected in Inner Disk Around Young Star

Webb Telescope Makes Breakthrough Discovery: Water Detected in Inner Disk Around Young Star

Webb Telescope Makes Breakthrough Discovery: Water Detected in Inner Disk Around Young Star
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The James Webb Space Telescope has detected the presence of water in the inner disk around a young star where giant planets have already formed further away. According to a report by Nature on Monday (July 24), this research took place within the MINDS collaboration. This is the first sighting of water at a stage when the disk has already lost most of its material. And as per a report by Radboud University, any rocky planet arising in the inner disk would benefit from a significant local water reservoir and increases the likelihood of ‘habitability’ at a later stage.

“Terrestrial and sub-Neptune planets are expected to form in the inner (less than 10 AU) regions of protoplanetary disks,” the Nature report on Monday said, adding, water plays an important role in their formation but it is unclear whether water molecules are formed in situ or transported from the outer disk.

Observations detect water near centre of inner disk

The observations with the Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI) aboard the James Webb Space Telescope detected water near the centre of the disk, close to its parent star PDS 70, which is approximately 370 light years away from Earth. This is the region in the solar system where rocky planets orbit the sun. Analysis showed that the water is hot vapour at a temperature of no less than 230 degrees Celsius.

Thomas Henning, the co-author of the paper, said that the discovery is exciting as it involves the region where rocky planets like Earth normally form.

Previous studies found no water in the central regions of disks that evolved similarly. “The inner edges of evolved and low-dust disks may not be as dry as we previously thought. If this is true, many terrestrial planets arising in these zones could well be born with a key ingredient that makes life possible,” Rens Waters from Radboud University, who is also the co-author of the study, said.

The MINDS collaboration is probing investigating different scenarios to explain their findings. Astronomer Giulia Perotti, who is the lead author of the research, said, “We may now have found evidence that water could also serve as one of the first ingredients of rocky planets and be available immediately after their birth.”

Till now, no planets have so far been found near the centre of the PDS 70 disk. Astronomers earlier discovered two gas giants further away: PDS 70 b and c. And as they grew, these planets accumulated dust and gas as they orbited their parent star, creating a wide ring-shaped gap containing almost no observable material.