NASA spotted structures never before seen or predicted
The fast-moving wave-like features in the disc of the star AU Microscopii are unlike anything ever observed, or even predicted, before now.
The origin and nature of these features present a new mystery for astronomers to explore. The results are published in the journal Nature on 8 October 2015.
AU Microscopii, or AU Mic for short, is a young, nearby star surrounded by a large disc of dust. Studies of such debris discs can provide valuable clues about how planets, which form from these discs, are created.
Astronomers have been searching AU Mic's disc for any signs of clumpy or warped features, as such signs might give away the location of possible planets.
And in 2014 they used the powerful high-contrast imaging capabilities of ESO's newly installed SPHERE instrument, mounted on the Very Large Telescope for their search - and discovered something very unusual.
"Our observations have shown something unexpected," explains Anthony Boccaletti of the Observatoire de Paris, France, lead author on the paper.
"The images from SPHERE show a set of unexplained features in the disc which have an arch-like, or wave-like, structure, unlike anything that has ever been observed before." ■