Dust Grains Highlight the Path to Planet Formation
An international team of researchers studying the characteristics of the protoplanetary disk of the star UX Tauri A, have determined that its dust particles are large in size and non-spherical in shape. This exciting result shows that these dust grains are colliding with and adhering to each other, a process that will lead to their eventual formation into planets.
The team made a detailed study of UX Tau A in the near-infrared wavelengths. They measured the polarization of infrared light to find out the distribution of the dust particles that scattered the infrared light. Polarized light reflected from dust particles gives important information about planetary formation in disks. Even though dust particles only make up a tiny fraction of the protoplanetary disk, they can develop into planetesimals (solid objects less than a kilometer in diameter), and eventually, planets.