Astronomers have established that for a few million years newborn stars possess disks of orbiting gas and dust. Such disks, which are likely sites of planet formation, appear to disappear once these stars reach ages of 5-10×10^6 yr; yet, ≥10^7 yr is thought necessary for giant planet formation. If disks dissipate in less time than is needed for giant planet formation, such planets may be rare and those known around nearby stars would be anomalies. Herein, we report the discovery of H2 gas orbiting a weak-lined T Tauri star heretofore presumed nearly devoid of circumstellar material. We estimate that a significant amount of H2 persists in the gas phase, but only a tiny fraction of this mass emits in the near-infrared. We propose that this star possesses an evolved disk that has escaped detection thus far because much of the dust has coagulated into planetesimals. This discovery suggests that the theory that disks are largely absent around such stars should be reconsidered. The widespread presence of such disks would indicate that planetesimals can form quickly and giant planet formation can proceed to completion before the gas in circumstellar disks disperses (Refer to PDF file for exact formulas).
Department, Program, or Center
Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science (COS)
Astrophys.J.L. 576 (2002) L73-L76
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