Astronomers Are Watching a Planet Form for the First Time
Scientists already know what goes into forming a planet, but they’ve never been able to witness such a cosmic event firsthand. Now, for the first time in history, astronomers are watching a developing planet form 450 light years beyond our own.
Astronomers at the University of Arizona made the discovery after noticing something peculiar about a dust cloud surrounding a star called LkCa15 near the Taurus constellation. It’s not unusual to find masses of gas and dust hanging around young stars, but this particular cloud was remarkable in that it had a gaping hole in its center.
Scientists have theorized that planets are formed in the middle of such doughnut-shaped disks from the dust and debris surrounding them. New images captured of the star with the U of A’s Large Binocular Telescope and the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile show point sources of heat spiraling around the gap, further supporting the discovery.
The University has released images of the protoplanetary process on YouTube along with an artist’s rendering. Thanks to progressing technology, this is sure to be the first of countless planetary births witnessed by scientists. You can read the researchers’ full findings in Nature.