Planets and their sun grow together

In this illustration, gaseous streams spiral in from a disk surrounding the young star HD 142527. Two protoplanets seen as tiny knots within the streams may be funneling the gas inwards to the star. Credit: ALMA ESO NAOJ NRAO M. Kornmesser ESO
In this illustration, gaseous streams spiral in from a disk surrounding the young star HD 142527. Two protoplanets seen as tiny knots within the streams may be funneling the gas inwards to the star. Credit: ALMA ESO NAOJ NRAO M. Kornmesser ESO
In this illustration, gaseous streams spiral in from a disk surrounding the young star HD 142527. Two protoplanets seen as tiny knots within the streams may be funneling the gas inwards to the star. Credit: ALMA ESO NAOJ NRAO M. Kornmesser ESO
In this illustration, gaseous streams spiral in from a disk surrounding the young star HD 142527. Two protoplanets seen as tiny knots within the streams may be funneling the gas inwards to the star. Credit: ALMA ESO NAOJ NRAO M. Kornmesser ESO

Some 450 light-years from Earth, embryonic planets may be feeding tendrils of gas to the newborn star they orbit. The discovery helps explain how a young star can grow even as budding planets suck up much of the gas and dust around it. Without the tendrils replenishing it, the star’s supply of gas would disappear in less than a year.

Jupiter and Saturn may have done something similar for the sun in its early days, 4.5 billion years ago. “This is one of the nearest examples of the birth of a solar system,” says Simon Casassus, an astronomer at the University of Chile. He and his colleagues describe the finding online January 2 in Nature.

The star in question is named HD 142527, in the southern constellation Lupus. It’s about twice the mass of the sun but far younger, only about 2 million years old. Astronomers knew it was surrounded by a swirling disk of gas and dust, which has a big clearing in it from about 10 times to 140 times the Earth-sun distance. They think a big budding planet — something like Jupiter in its very early days — might orbit its star at about 90 times the Earth-sun distance, clearing out a gap like a snowplow sh