For the first time, astronomers have been able to measure the tangled mess of magnetism surrounding a very young 10,000-year-old star, providing insight into how magnetism can affect the formation of a protoplanetary disk.
Observations made at the National Science Foundation by Karl G. Jansky using the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope showed that centimeter particles quickly form in a dusty envelope surrounding a star, showing us the process of object formation. In the end, these particles form asteroids and planets.
The researchers closely watched one of the protostar pairs located 750 light-years from Earth in the constellation Perseus and recorded the polarization of radio waves generated by the medium surrounding the star, which is called NGC1333 IRAS 4A. Polarization emissions provide information on the configuration of magnetic stellar material. Radio waves are generated by dust particles falling on a hot protoplanetary disk. Some disc materials fall on a star, moving the magnetic field closer to it.
"The alignment of the magnetic field in this area near young stars is very important for the development of the disks surrounding them," said Leslie Looney of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Depending on its location, the magnetic field can either impede the growth of the disk, or allow it to grow."
“Our observations made with the VLA show us this area where the magnetic field changes,” added Erin Cox, also from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Understanding the magnetic configuration of a young star is crucial to our understanding of the evolution of stars, and perhaps even help us understand how quickly planets can spawn from a star's protoplanetary disk. This knowledge can then be used to present a picture of how our own solar system originated.