A new study has revealed details of an enigmatic star system that looks suspiciously like a spiral galaxy.
You’d certainly be forgiven for thinking that the above image shows a distant spiral galaxy, but this is in fact a star system situated some 500 million light-years from Earth.
Astronomers now believe that its spiral-like arms, which are formed from the protoplanetary disc of gas, dust and rocks left over from the star’s formation, are indicative of a hidden planet.
Dubbed MWC 758c, this unseen world would need to be pretty big – twice the size of Jupiter – in order to have the gravitational heft to shape the disc into such a distinctive shape.
The planet’s existence couldn’t be determined when the star system was discovered back in 2013 and it wasn’t until astronomers could observe it using the Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer in Arizona more recently that it was possible to find out for sure that it was there.
It will take the James Webb Space Telescope, however, to fully confirm their observations.
“Depending on the results that come from the JWST observations, we can begin to apply this newfound knowledge to other stellar systems, and that will allow us to make predictions about where other hidden planets might be lurking,” said study lead author Kevin Wagner.