For the first time ever, scientists have been able to observe a planet in its beginning stages of formation. They’ve been able to capture images of dust and gas particles accumulating together which are forming another planet in another galaxy.
“This is the first time that we’ve imaged a planet that we can say is still forming.” – Stephanie Sallum, an astronomer with the University of Arizona and co-author of the study (source)
Kate Follett, a researcher from Stanford University and Sallum’s co-author, said that “no one has successfully and unambiguously detected a forming planet before. There have always been alternative explanations, but in this case we’ve taken a direct picture, and it’s hard to dispute that.” (source)
It’s quite amazing that we can take a picture of a forming planet. This one is known as LkCa15 and it is 450-light years away. Here it is:
The results were published in the Nov. 19 issue of Nature. The interesting thing is that both researchers were working independently of each other, pursuing their own Ph.D. projects, and by sheer synchronicity turned out to be examining the same star.
The star has a transition disk around it, which the university press release describes as “a cosmic whirling dervish, a birthplace for planets,” kind of like what you see in the cover picture for this article. They are called Protoplanetary disks, and they form around young stars by using the debris left over from the star’s formation. From here, scientists believe that planets form inside of this disk by sweeping up dust and debris that fall onto the planet instead of staying in the disk or falling onto the star. A gap is then cleared where the planet can form.
Researchers are just now being able to image objects that are are close to (and much fainter) than a nearby star, thanks to instruments and techniques that make this kind of research possible. Specifically, they are using the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT), located in Arizona, which is the largest in the world.
Anytime I write about something about space. I like to include these types of quotes, especially when “light years” away are mentioned in the article.
“There is another way whether it’s wormholes or warping space, there’s got to be a way to generate energy so that you can pull it out of the vacuum, and the fact that they’re here shows us that they found a way.” (source) – Jack Kasher, Ph.D, Professor Emeritus of physics, University of Nebraska.
When it comes to space, it’s time for us to start recognizing that we are not alone. If this topic is of interest of you, you can find all of our articles written on it in the exopolitics section of our website, here.
Below is a video of more pictures and animations that was released by the University of Arizona.
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