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Mommy, How Are Planets Made? New Image Reveals Best-Ever Look

The world’s largest telescope, located in the Andes Mountains of Chile, has captured the clearest image of the formation of planets. Scientists have long believed that planets are born out of protoplanetary disks – gas and dust orbiting a star – but, until now, we have only seen fuzzy examples.

The telescope known as ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) has exposed the most vivid account. Kelly Beatty of Sky & Telescope magazine spoke with Here & Now‘s Jeremy Hobson and Sacha Pfeiffer about what this means for scientists on the quest to understanding our universe.

[Youtube]

Guest

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This image compares the size of the Solar System with HL Tauri and its surrounding protoplanetary disc. Although the star is much smaller than the Sun, the disc around HL Tauri stretches out to almost three times as far from the star as Neptune is from the Sun. (ALMA/ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)
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This image compares the size of the Solar System with HL Tauri and its surrounding protoplanetary disc. Although the star is much smaller than the Sun, the disc around HL Tauri stretches out to almost three times as far from the star as Neptune is from the Sun. (ALMA/ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)
This is a composite image of the young star HL Tauri and its surroundings using data from ALMA (enlarged in box at upper right) and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope (rest of the picture). This is the first ALMA image where the image sharpness exceeds that normally attained with Hubble. (ALMA/ESO/NAOJ/NRAO/NASA/ESA)
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This is a composite image of the young star HL Tauri and its surroundings using data from ALMA (enlarged in box at upper right) and the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope (rest of the picture). This is the first ALMA image where the image sharpness exceeds that normally attained with Hubble. (ALMA/ESO/NAOJ/NRAO/NASA/ESA)