Astronomers say that magnetic storms in the gas orbiting young stars may explain a mystery that has persisted since before 2006. Researchers using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to study developing stars have had a hard time figuring out why the stars give off more infrared light than expected. The planet-forming disks that circle the young stars are heated by starlight and glow with infrared light, but Spitzer detected additional infrared light coming from an unknown source. A new theory, based on three-dimensional models of planet-forming disks, suggests the answer: Gas and dust suspended above the disks on gigantic magnetic loops like those seen on the sun absorb the starlight and glow with infrared light.
Magnetic loops carry gas and dust above disks of planet-forming material circling stars, as shown in this artist's conception. These loops give off extra heat, which Spitzer detects as infrared light. The colors in this illustration show what an alien observer with eyes sensitive to both visible light and infrared wavelengths might see.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech#nasa #planet #stars #spitzer #telescope #space #science