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.