Planet Birth

Rings around the star HL Tau
A protoplanetary disc has already formed around the young star HL Tau. Credit: ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ); C. Brogan, B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

 

The Alma radio telescope took this amazing picture of planets forming around the sun-like star, HL Tau. This is a baby star, less than a million years old, which is 450 light years from Earth in the constellation Taurus. And the disc of dust and gas around the star is already forming planets and asteroids – that’s what makes the dark rings in the brighter dust.

It’s the first time that anyone has photographed this sort of detail. The ALMA telescope has 66 radio dishes spread out over 15 km of hillside, observing wavelengths much longer than visible light.

Alma's antennas in the Atacama Desert,  Chile at night.
Alma’s antennas in the Atacama Desert, Chile.

Posted by sheila

Sheila came to La Palma with a six month contract and has stayed 24 years so far. She used to work as a software engineer at the observatory, but now she's a writer and Starlight guide.

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