Stunning Snapshot Shows Birth of Alien Solar System
A Chilean observatory catches a protoplanetary disk in action.
Talk about your ultimate baby picture! Astronomers have snapped the best image ever seen of the actual birth of new planets around a young, sunlike star.
The astonishingly detailed photo reveals the planet-forming dust disk around the infant star HL Tau. Only one million years old, HL Tau sits in the constellation Taurus, the Bull, and is some 450 light-years from Earth. (Related: "Newborn Star Is Youngest Ever Found.")
Our own Earth was born more than 4.5 billion years ago from a similar "protoplanetary" disk, explaining astronomers' interest in witnessing planetary origins around a nearby star.
The HL Tau disk image turned up thanks to the high-resolution radio imaging capabilities of the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). It allowed scientists to