The James Webb space telescope managed to glimpse the ghost planet Fomalhaut-b, in orbit around a star 25 light years away from us and whose real existence there have always been many doubts. The new data are presented in the study led by András Gáspár, of the University of Arizona in Tucson, and published in the journal Nature Astronomy. They indicate the existence of some asteroid belts around the star Fomalhaut and suggest the presence of at least one planet, even if it is difficult to detect.
The ghost planet has been at the center of scientific debate for years
Fomalhaut is one of the brightest stars in the night sky, known as ‘the mouth of the whale’, and has been at the center of an animated scientific debate for years, ever since in 1983 the IRAS space telescope observed what according to many were the unequivocal signs of the presence of a circumstellar disk, i.e. dust and debris inside which there were planets in formation. In 2008 some researchers managed to observe a bright dot that was identified as a planet, the first to ever be photographed directly in visible light. But that interpretation was disputed by many astronomers, including Gáspár, as the alleged planet was not visible in other wavelengths, it was in fact a ghost.
For researchers, more than one planet could be hiding
However, now using the powerful eyes of the James Webb telescope, the researchers have managed to discover new precious details of the many objects and dust surrounding the star: at least two rings of debris can be identified, very similar to the asteroids that form the Kuiper belt in our Solar System, in which there are even rather large objects such as Pluto and Eris. The particular alignment of the two rings of debris, say the authors of the research, would be proof of the existence of at least one planet that is difficult to observe and of a very dynamic planetary system, that is in continuous evolution.