Picking up on the mystery of how a massive Planet X could form beyond the outer confines of the Sun’s magnetic environment, as per my previous posts on the accretion of dust beyond the heliopause (1,2) and an exploratory scientific paper I published earlier in the year (3). I’m searching for evidence, or at least some educated guesswork, about whether interstellar medium beyond the heliosphere of stars might be sufficient over time to build up substantial, gaseous planets loosely bound to their parent star systems. Such planets might, I suggest, accumulate dust clouds and rings around them, undisrupted by the action of the solar wind trapped within the inner magnetic sphere of the solar system.
Even though this kind of accumulation could be gradually taking place over billions of years, creating a meaningful adjustment to the mass of a substantial planet over these kinds of time periods, it doesn’t seem likely that this kind of effect could take place if our current interstellar environment is anything to go by (although the unexpected presence of interstellar ‘fluff’ beyond the heliopause, described by NASA (4), and the intrusion of large grain particles into the outer solar system (5) do offer some evidence of what could be ‘out there’).
Last month, I looked at evidence of massive stars being aided in their development by the dumping of immense quantities of neighbouring nebula material onto them (6). I wondered whether a similar mechanism might also be happening in interstellar space at the planetary level, based upon globular frameworks of nebula materials (like gigantic molecular clouds, and the like).
Continuing the discussion from last month’s blog about planetessimal-building conditions in space beyond the solar system’s heliopause boundary (1). In my February paper, I discussed anomalous results which had come back from various space probes regarding the influx of large grain interstellar dust into the heliosphere (2). More on this in a moment. A correspondent of mine had noted similarities between what I had been writing about and previous work by Paul LaViolette, who had written about the origins of the dust picked up by the Ulysses spacecraft:
“I would suggest that the dust originates from a circumsolar dust sheath that is concentrated toward the plane of the ecliptic in a fashion similar to the disk girdling the star Beta Pictoris and that is co-moving with the Sun. Infrared observations confirm the existence of dust sheaths around other stars in the solar neighborhood, leading to the conclusion that our Solar System is similarly shrouded.” (3)
The 20 million year old star Beta Pictoris provides astronomers with the best example of a gas giant exoplanet found orbiting within an evolving proto-planetary disk, made all the more dramatic by its side-on view and the brightness of scattered light from the revolving disk:
“In 1984 Beta Pictoris was the very first star discovered to host a bright disc of light-scattering circumstellar dust and debris. Ever since then Beta Pictoris has been an object of intensive scrutiny with Hubble and with ground-based telescopes. Hubble spectroscopic observations in 1991 found evidence for extrasolar comets frequently falling into the star.” (4)