Planet formation captured in photo

Nov 9, 2014

By Jonathan Webb

The clearest ever image of planets forming around an infant star has been taken by the Alma radio telescope.

In a vast disc of dust and gas, dark rings are clearly visible: gaps in the cloud, swept clear by brand new planets in orbit.

The sun-like star at the centre, HL Tau, is less than a million years old and is 450 light years from Earth in the constellation Taurus.

The image was made possible by Alma’s new high-resolution capabilities.


Read the full article by clicking the name of the source located below.

13 comments on “Planet formation captured in photo

  • This is amazing. If that’s what they find in the first month, imagine what will be coming over the next years. Would there be any advantage to floating such an array in space?

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  • “These rings will form planets, asteroids, comets… And eventually as the star evolves, this will cool and settle and there will be more clearing and more individual objects, just like we see in our solar system.”

    It shows the universal nature of the physics of gravity.

    The rings and swept areas in this accretion disk. are similar to the rings and shepherd moons of Saturn.

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  • Ist thing I thought of when seeing the photo!…… Our Universe giving “birth” The Christian deity was supposed to be finished the 6th day! But here we ARE!

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  • “HL Tau is no more than a million years old, yet already its disc appears to be full of forming planets.”

    If the interstellar dust and gas has clumped enough to form a star a the centre, it should not be very surprising that it is clumping into asteroids and proto-planets further out in the disk.

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  • I can’t find the more recent article I read on the subject but it is the speed in which it is happening. Here is an older version that does not quite explain but explains Galaxy formation. Will keep looking for the other article.

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  • Looks like a lot of stuff to put into space:

    A lot of it is structural to deal with gravity. That could be much lighter.
    You could probably laser down the raw data and process it on earth. That might save a lot of the electronics. What’s left is something to aim the arrays and hold them steady.

    I don’t even know if there would be any advantage. Does the atmosphere interfere with radio waves? I know some frequencies reflect off atmospheric layers. I thought of radio waves as low resolution, but when you are looking at planets wavelengths of several km is still pretty fine.

    What happens when your sensors (of any kind) are light minutes apart?

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  • It is almost like a fractal. The ring pattern is used around Saturn, and also reused for the creation of an entire solar system. It had never dawned on me before why Saturn had gaps in the rings.

    Astronomy has always struck me as presumption piled on presumption, with only the most indirect evidence to let them know if they were on the right track. That photo shows that quite a bit of that theory was bang on in a way that even a lay person can grasp.

    Any way, I am tickled.

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  • Thanks Alan. Still can’t find that article. It basically said that the radiation from one black hole jet makes molecules clump together to start the formation of stars in another nearby galaxy. Why can’t I find the same article with the same search parameters?

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  • Roedy Nov 10, 2014 at 9:48 am

    It is almost like a fractal. The ring pattern is used around Saturn, and also reused for the creation of an entire solar system. It had never dawned on me before why Saturn had gaps in the rings.

    The ring gaps are swept by larger bodies, in both systems, but the origins of the disks are different.
    The accretion disk is progressing to a stable planetary system, whereas the rings of Saturn are temporary, but are being renewed by cryovolcanism erupting (mainly) ice crystals, as a result of the heating of moons by tidal drag.

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  • What amazing resolution to be gotten from a radio telescope! When you consider the angular size of this forming solar system it is staggering that they can achieve this level of detail. Can’t wait to see what we can do with the square km array when it gets going.

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