Evidence suggests that planets may have formed during the “cosmic noon,” according to a global team of space scientists. The team used data from the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) to study a portion of the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) to learn more about how planets form around young stars. Their findings are published in the journal Nature Astronomy.
Astronomers have been studying planet formation and the likelihood of Earth-like planets’ existence for a long time. However, the origin of planets in the early universe, when most, if not all, stars were small, is still a mystery. In this new endeavor, the research team concentrated on the SMC, a dwarf galaxy not too far from the Milky Way time. However, the origin of planets in the early universe, when most, if not all, stars were small, is still a mystery. In this new endeavor, the research team concentrated on the SMC, a dwarf galaxy not too far from the Milky Way. Because it is composed of hundreds of young, low-mass stars, they concentrated their attention on NGC 346, a region of the SMC. They were curious as to whether planets were forming there. They looked at the JWST’s data to find out.
Planet formation by the accretion of materials from and around a star has previously been demonstrated. However, researchers have held the view that the appropriate materials, such as iron, silicon, and aluminum, are also required. Planets are unlikely to form around young, small stars because such materials are thought to be scarce there.
The team used JWST’s infrared data, which can see through the dust clouds that typically surround young, developing stars, to learn more. They discovered that previous beliefs were incorrect. Despite the absence of metals, the data showed that the SMC contained rock-forming elements that are comparable to materials found in galaxies much further away. Such materials are accepted to address a period in the universe known as “enormous early afternoon,” when gigantic quantities of stars were framing all over the universe. This also suggests that numerous planets may have formed around them at the time.
More information: Olivia C. Jones et al, JWST/NIRCam detections of dusty subsolar-mass young stellar objects in the Small Magellanic Cloud, Nature Astronomy (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41550-023-01945-7