Surprising Picture Shows Planet Forming 450 Light-Years Away
New images of a star show what a planet looks like as it’s being born.
Near the center of a large, faraway disk resembling a celestial mandala, a young planet is in the process of being born.
Or rather, growing up.
At this early point in its life, the cosmic infant isn’t much more than a clump of dust. Containing between three and eight times more mass than Earth, the proto-planet is orbiting a young star called HL Tau, about 450 light-years away in the constellation Taurus. It’s tucked near the star, where scientists suspect rocky planets are likely to live—and where it’s often exceedingly difficult to see anything other than dusty starlight.
In 2014, astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/Sub-millimeter Array spotted the psychedelic disk. It contains gaps that could be telltale signs of forming