ANALYSIS: Is This a Baby Picture of a Giant Planet?
"We were also surprised to find a fainter glow that is probably coming from a small accretion disc around the companion star," added Michel Hillen, of the Instituut voor Sterrenkunde in Leuven, Belgium, and lead author of a paper published in the Astronomy & Astrophysics. "We knew the star was double, but weren't expecting to see the companion directly. It is really thanks to the jump in performance now provided by the new detector in PIONIER (Precision Integrated-Optics Near-infrared Imaging ExpeRiment, attached to the VLT), that we are able to view the very inner regions of this distant system."
This observation has led to speculation that these old star disks, like the protoplanetary disks surrounding baby stars, may give rise to a second generation of planetary formation, but more observations are needed.
"Our observations and modelling open a new window to study the physics of these discs, as well as stellar evolution in double stars. For the first time the complex interactions between close binary systems and their dusty environments can now be resolved in space and time," said co-author Hans Van Winckel, also of the Instituut voor Sterrenkunde in Leuven.