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Astronomers See Snow...in Space

Artist’s conception of the snow line in TW Hydrae. Image Credit: Bill Saxton/Alexandra Angelich, NRAO/AUI/NSF

Artist’s conception of the snow line in TW Hydrae. Image Credit: Bill Saxton/Alexandra Angelich, NRAO/AUI/NSF

Astronomers have detected a “snow line” in a baby solar system about 175 light-years away from Earth. This is a significant discovery because it may provide information about how Earth was formed billions of years ago. The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array telescope in Chile made this discovery possible because it was created to look at grains and other debris around forming solar systems. The telescope captured an image of a large snow line on TW Hydrae that stretches beyond the equivalent orbit of Neptune in our solar system. 

Astronomers think that, in many cases, young stars are usually surrounded by a cloud of gas and debris that form into planets over time. Snow lines form in young solar systems in areas where the the star's heat isn’t enough to melt the substance. First, water freezes around dust grains, followed by carbon dioxide, methane and carbon monoxide. In this case, astronomers were able to spot the carbon monoxide snow because they looked for diazenylium, a molecule that is broken up in areas of carbon monoxide gas. 

Read the full story on Universe Today

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