Your Morning Geek-Out: How Planets Are Born [Watch]

If you like space, or even gazing up at the night sky, the latest UT Astronomy Department project may capture your imagination.

The Texas Advanced Computing Center and its Ranger supercomputer have helped UT astronomer Sally Dodson Robinson and her team simulate how “protostellar disks” form and become planets.

Consider that 25 years ago, we knew of a single extrasolar planet. Now we know of nearly 2,400 awaiting confirmation. Such simulations will allow researchers to know where to look for more of them.

The process starts when a molecular cloud collapses into a young star. Over millions of years, the leftover gas and dust form a disk around the star, and the particulates within the disk collide and coalesce until a planet takes shape.

The computing center’s simulations factor in the turbulence and temperature of the disk over millions of years. In a disk that is too turbulent, the particles move too fast and bounce around. Less turbulence provides a greater chance for them to collide and stick together. Check out this cool video for more.


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