Similar protoplanetary disks have been observed around single stars, but the L1551 disks are about 10 times smaller, their size being limited by the gravitational effect of the neighboring star. The discovery is important because it shows that protoplanetary disks, albeit of more restricted size, can exist in close binary star systems. Each disk contains about 0.05 solar masses of material, which is similar to the mass content of the solar system. Had the stars been much closer together, the gravitational effects of both would have disrupted the disks. As a result, if planetary systems do form in the L1551 pair, they will be among the nearest neighboring sets of planets in the Galaxy. In commenting on the discovery, astrophysicist Alan Boss suggested that if a giant planet were to form close to the edge of one of the disks, it might be ejected from the system by the gravitational effect of the companion.
Related category NOTABLE STARS
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