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Formation of a New Planet Snapped by Alma’s Telescope

The most clear picture of planets being formed around a young star has been taken by the Alma radio telescope.

Planet formation captured in photo Photo Credit: Flickr

Planet formation captured in photo
Photo Credit: Flickr

In a huge disc of gas and dust, the dark rings were clearly seen and gaps in the cloud were made clear by the new planets in orbit.

The star, similar to the sun, is the HL Tau which is a little less than a million years and is located 450 light years away from the earth.

Due to the new high-resolution capabilities of Alma, the image was made as clear as possible.

Because the process of planet formation takes place in the midst of such a huge dust cloud, it can’t be observed using visible light.

ALMA, which stands for Atacama Large Millimeter Array, has captured the astonishing new image making use of much longer wavelengths and detects it through comparison of the singnal from multiple antennas which are distance of 15 km from each other.

To check its latest ability of capturing in high resolution, Scientists from Alma took their antennas at HL Tau and discovered the ‘protoplanetary disc’ in much more detail than ever before.

“I think it’s phenomenal,” said Dr Aprajita Verma, an astrophysicist at the University of Oxford.

“This shows how exciting Alma is going to be – it’s going to be an incredible instrument.”

The image matches predictions from computer simulations and illustrations like this one

Prof Tim de Zeeuw is director general of the European Southern Observatory, one of several organisations involved in Alma. He said: “Most of what we know about planet formation today is based on theory. Images with this level of detail have up to now been relegated to computer simulations or artist’s impressions.”

Dr Verma agrees that the image was an important data and an equally important evidence mainly due to the fact that the star is very young.

“I think the big result is that you might have expected just a smooth disc,” she told the BBC.

“But you’re really seeing multiple rings – and where it’s darker, that’s where you’ve cleared the material already in the disc.”

“The whole process is happening faster than we would have predicted from existing data,” Dr Verma explained.

“It means that things are coagulating. It’s really a planetary system, that you’re seeing at a very early time.

“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.”

About Enozia Vakil

Enozia Vakil is an online entrepreneur, writer, editor and an avid reader. She has been associated with some of the best names in both online and print media, and holds a degree in Alternative Medicine.