Dean Hines: Every time we look at anything in astronomy, in a new way, we’ve discovered things that we didn’t expect.
That’s astronomer Dean Hines, speaking from a 2008 meeting. He found planets being born around the star science HD 61005 – it’s about 113 light years from Earth. And what surprised him is what he calls ‘the moth.’
Dean Hines: We’re calling it ‘the moth’ because it looks like a moth. Planets forming around a star usually form in a ring. The ring wasn’t there, but instead what’s there is a bunch of material being blown out of the system because it’s crashing into the interstellar medium.
The interstellar medium, Hines told us, is giant clouds of gas and dust between stars.
Dean Hines: The star is moving pretty fast, and it’s running into a patch of material that’s a little bit denser. And it’s exactly like standing in front of a fan. So when you see the wings of the moth, that is small grains of dust being pushed out of the system by the wind in this interstellar medium.
And in that dust formed from small planets or asteroids grinding themselves up, said Hines, are signs of planet formation.
Dean Hines: This is one of the few times where we’ve actually seen an interaction happening between a forming solar system and the interstellar medium.
‘The moth’ could tell astronomers more about our own origins.
Our thanks to:
Dean Hines, Senior Research Scientist
Space Science Institute
Jorge Salazar has conducted thousands of in-depth interviews with scientists in the process of creating science content for EarthSky. He also helps host the 90-second EarthSky podcasts. Jorge has a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Texas at Austin. He knows a lot about a lot of different things. For EarthSky, he has explored subjects as diverse as nanotechnology, ecosystem-based management, climate change, global health, international environmental treaties, astrophysics and cosmology, and environmental security. His penetrating research style, poetic writing, and ability to track down and speak with Nobel prize-winning laureates, all make him a huge asset to EarthSky.