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Dracula's Chivito: A Monster of a Protoplanetary Disk Discovered!

Astronomers using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) have stumbled upon a colossal cosmic discovery: Dracula's Chivito, a massive protoplanetary disk some 800 light-years away. This behemoth, named for its resemblance to the Uruguayan sandwich, dwarfs all other known disks, offering valuable insights into planet formation.

Color (giy) PS1 image of Dracula's Chivito. Credit: arXiv (2024). DOI: 10.48550/arxiv.2402.01063
Color (giy) PS1 image of Dracula's Chivito. Credit: arXiv (2024). DOI: 10.48550/arxiv.2402.01063

What's a protoplanetary disk?

Imagine a swirling disc of gas and dust encircling a newborn star. This dusty cradle is where planets are believed to be born, gradually accumulating material until they become celestial bodies. Studying these disks helps us understand how our own Solar System, and countless others, came to be.

The discovery led by Ciprian T. Berghea, a team of astronomers serendipitously spotted Dracula's Chivito while analyzing Pan-STARRS data for a different project. This colossal disk, associated with the infrared source IRAS 23077+6707, boasts an impressive size: 11 arcseconds across, making it the largest ever observed!

Dracula's Chivito by the numbers:

  • Mass: A hefty 0.2 solar masses, with 20% in large grains.

  • Inclination: Tilted 82 degrees, offering a nearly edge-on view.

  • Radius: A whopping 1,650 AU (Astronomical Units), extending far beyond Neptune's orbit in our Solar System.

  • Central star: Likely a late A-type star, twice the size of our Sun and 2.5 times as massive, radiating with 11 times the Sun's luminosity.

Faint "fangs" detected in the northern part might be remnants of a dissipating envelope, suggesting Dracula's Chivito is a young system nearing the end of its early evolutionary stage.

This discovery is a game-changer for understanding protoplanetary disks and planet formation. Its sheer size and unique features provide valuable data for astronomers to test and refine their models. Studying Dracula's Chivito could unveil crucial secrets about how planets, including our own, are born!

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