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Study: Researchers find carbon monoxide trapped in ice

Artist illustration of carbon monoxide trapped in ice around a planetary disk. Photo courtesy of M. Weiss/Center for Astrophysics/Harvard & Smithsonian
Artist illustration of carbon monoxide trapped in ice around a planetary disk. Photo courtesy of M. Weiss/Center for Astrophysics/Harvard & Smithsonian

Aug. 22 (UPI) -- A study released Monday solved a long-running mystery regarding what appeared to be missing carbon monoxide in the planet-forming disk.

The study, published in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy, found that missing carbon monoxide hiding in ice formations within the disk. The findings were validated by observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter Array Radio Telescope.

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Astronomers regularly observe carbon monoxide in the protoplanetary disk, which often is ultra-bright and extremely common in protoplanetary disks. The region of dust and gas is where planets form around young stars.

"Here, we demonstrate that surface energy effects on particles in disks, such as the Kelvin effect, that arise when ice heterogeneously nucleates onto an existing particle can efficiently trap [carbon monoxide] in its ice phase," the study said.

"In previous ice formation models, CO gas was released when small ice-coated particles were lofted to warmed disk layers. Our model can reproduce the observed abundance, distribution and time evolution of gaseous CO in the four most studied protoplanetary disks."

Researchers said that carbon monoxide inaccuracies could have huge implications for the field of astrochemistry.

"Carbon monoxide is essentially used to trace everything we know about disks -- like mass, composition and temperature," said Diana Powell, a NASA Hubble Fellow at the Center for Astrophysics, Harvard & Smithsonian, according to Phys.org.

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"This could mean many of our results for disks have been biased and uncertain because we don't understand the compound well enough."

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