TW Hydrae and its disk. The gap may indicate the existence of a planet.
TW Hydrae, a star located about 176 light years away, is one of the closest things in the universe we have to a time machine. That’s because it’s only about 8 million years old, and its believed to look a lot like what our own Solar System looked like in the first few million years of its existence. By studying TW Hydrae, astronomers can learn more about the history of our own Sun.
Recently, while observing this star, the Hubble Telescope found something pretty amazing – a gap in the star’s protoplanetary disk. The disk, which was discovered a few years ago, is an accretion of large amounts of material that are expected to coalesce into a planet over the course of time. The most likely reason why such a gap would exist would be the formation of the planet. As the planet traveled around the star, its gravity would either attract or push the disk material out of its way. Such a planet would be somewhere in between 6 to 28 times more massive than Earth.