Caught in the act – forming planets, #HLTau, #PlanetForming #ALMA

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/11/141106-starstruck-protoplanetary-disk-exoplanet-science/

This image looks so bright, so clear, and so pretty that you would be forgiven for assuming that is a computer-generated model. But this is actual real data taken by an array of radio telescopes, called ALMA, in Chile. In this image, we’ve captured planetary formation in action. In the center is the star HL Tau – less than a million years old but in many ways just like our Sun – surrounded by concentric circles of dust and gas. The clear gaps in this glowing disk are where planets are forming. As the planet forms it collects up all the material in it orbits and hence clears away the debris.

As discussed on the National Geographic article –

”  “When we first saw this image we were astounded at the spectacular level of detail,” said ALMA deputy program scientist Catherine Vlahakis. “HL Tauri is no more than a million years old, yet already its disc appears to be full of forming planets.”

Tim de Zeeuw, director general of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) added that such a high resolution image would help us understand also the formation of Earth more than four billion years ago.

“Most of what we know about planet formation today is based on theory,” said de Zeeuw in a press release. “Images with this level of detail have up to now been relegated to computer simulations or artist’s impressions.”

Fantastic new light shed onto an old subject.

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9 comments on “Caught in the act – forming planets, #HLTau, #PlanetForming #ALMA

  1. I think its very interesting that we have the technology to observe these changes in the solar system. Its ridiculous how far this HL Tau is from earth and the fact that we can study it, and watch it develop over time.

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  2. That’s pretty awesome that we a few solar systems forming, which the one that we see HL Tau star is no more that 1 billion years old. We can actually study how this solar system is forming and see if our theories are actually true when our solar system has formed.

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  3. This discovery may or may not be beneficial in answering any questions that we have about our own solar system but to experience this new formation in this lifetime is astonishing. The formation of another possible solar system can only leave you questioning if their will be life on one of these planets and if they will form similar to what we already know about our own solar system.

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  4. As I was reading this, I thought exactly what Zeeuw ended up mentioning. This technology will help astronomers understand how our solar system formed and can most likely be confirmed since all we know is based on theory of how the planets were formed. For astronomers to actually get to witness another solar system of planets being formed is phenomenal and a great find for astronomers.

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  5. It is great how technology is helping us to shed light into an old subject like you said. With technology constantly improving we can expect to see new discoveries specially in space. It is indeed a beautiful image and the fact that we are able to see the formation of planets in action will definitely give us an insight on how our planet was form in “real time”. We are able to see the real thing where before we had to settle with computer simulated images. Fantastic!

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  6. I was thinking about that, if only we could see another galaxy form to answer more questions about our own solar system. I don’t think we could see it all the way through because that takes too long, but depending on how long generations after watch, we will see more and more of how it develops.

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  7. Another new discovery, and another insight as to how planets are formed that can perhaps confirm or further re-enforce what we already know. Or maybe create a few new hypotheses to test. Either way, the learning continues.

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  8. Because the star is so young and there are already planets forming around it, it just enforces the theory that pretty much everything in a solar system is formed at the same time. As we continue to study it and get clearer pictures we can determine if the planets are forming at the same distances as ours which would assist us in searching for another Earth-like planet.

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