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Fri Aug 29, 2014, 09:42 PM

Orion Rocks! Pebble-Size Particles May Jump-Start Planet Formation (NRAO press release)

Rocky planets like Earth start out as microscopic bits of dust tinier than a grain of sand, or so theories predict.

Astronomers using the National Science Foundationís (NSF) Green Bank Telescope (GBT) have discovered that filaments of star-forming gas near the Orion Nebula may be brimming with pebble-size particles -- planetary building blocks 100 to 1,000 times larger than the dust grains typically found around protostars. If confirmed, these dense ribbons of rocky material may well represent a new, mid-size class of interstellar particles that could help jump-start planet formation.

"The large dust grains seen by the GBT would suggest that at least some protostars may arise in a more nurturing environment for planets," said Scott Schnee, an astronomer with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) in Charlottesville, Virginia. "After all, if you want to build a house, itís best to start with bricks rather than gravel, and something similar can be said for planet formation."

The new GBT observations extend across the northern portion of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, a star-forming region that includes the famed Orion Nebula. The star-forming material in the section studied by the GBT, called OMC-2/3, has condensed into long, dust-rich filaments. The filaments are dotted with many dense knots known as cores. Some of the cores are just starting to coalesce while others have begun to form protostars -- the first early concentrations of dust and gas along the path to star formation. Astronomers speculate that in the next 100,000 to 1 million years, this area will likely evolve into a new star cluster. The OMC-2/3 region is located approximately 1,500 light-years from Earth and is roughly 10 light-years long.

Based on earlier maps of this region made with the IRAM 30 meter radio telescope in Spain, the astronomers expected to find a certain brightness to the dust emission when they observed the filaments at slightly longer wavelengths with the GBT.

Instead, the GBT discovered that the area was shining much brighter than expected in millimeter-wavelength light.
more: https://public.nrao.edu/news/pressreleases/dust-grains-orion
visit Green Bank: https://public.nrao.edu/telescopes/gbt

The venerable Green Bank telescope (officially the Robert C. Byrd Radio Telescope) is due for further upgrades to its sensitivity; read to the end of the article.

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Reply Orion Rocks! Pebble-Size Particles May Jump-Start Planet Formation (NRAO press release) (Original post)
eppur_se_muova Aug 2014 OP
Staph Aug 2014 #1

Response to eppur_se_muova (Original post)

Sat Aug 30, 2014, 12:49 AM

1. I hope they go through with the upgrades to GBT.

There is talk of closing down the NRAO observatory at Green Bank. Now that Senator Byrd is gone, there is no one with a big enough stick to protect the few federal facilities in West Virginia.

With the GBT (officially the Green Bank Telescope, but affectionately known as the Great Big Telescope around here!) as an active participant in some big discoveries, maybe Congress will change their collective mind about shutting it down.

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