20:46 15 July 2016
Astronomers have, for the first time, captured “snow” in space. Astronomers have observed a water snowline, which is a mixture of ice, water and snow, in the disk of dust and gas surrounding the young star V883 Orionis.
Young stars are often surrounded by a disk of dust and gas that stretches for billions of miles. Water that come too close to the star typically transformed into gas due to the heat produced by the star. However, after a certain distance, the water transitions from gas to solid ice due to low pressure. It is in the water snow line that water is vapourised and rocky planets are believed to form.
V883 Orionis was studied by a team of researchers from the Universidad Diego Portales in Santiago, Chile using the Attacama Large Millimetre Array telescope (ALMA).
'The ALMA observations came as a surprise to us,' said lead author Professor Lucas Cieza.
'Our observations were designed to look for disc fragmentation leading to planet formation. We saw none of that; instead, we found what looks like a ring at 40 au.