Revolutionary New Image Taken By ALMA Telescopes Show New Planets Forming Around The Star HL Tauri!

A new image captured by the array of ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) radio telescopes might be the most stunning image ever captured by a telescope, according to BBC News.

The new images released by researchers from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) show, in stunning detail, the formation of new planetary bodies around a young star named HL Tauri. In the image, the ALMA telescopes have managed to take a close look at the newly-formed star HL Tauri, which is estimated to be around 450 light years away from the earth. Also seen in the image are clues that point towards the formation of new planets around the star.

In the image, a set of concentric bright rings, separated by gaps, are seen. These features, according to The European Southern Observatory, are the result of the formation of new planet like bodies around the newly formed star. This image is almost a mirror of what our own young solar system might have looked like a few billion years ago when the young Sun had just formed, according to Discovery. However, in its present form, the planetary system under formation around HL Tauri is way bigger than our own solar system.

HL Tauri solar system size comparison
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.

It is a widely accepted fact that our solar system was formed out of a giant gas cloud. However, the discovery of this new budding star and planetary system will help us study the formation of our own solar system in detail. Also pertinent to note is the fact that whatever we have postulated about the origins of our solar system is simply theory. With the HL Tauri, we now have a live example of a new solar system being formed.

Looking at the pictures, Catherine Vlahakis, ALMA Deputy Program Scientist and Lead Program Scientist for the ALMA Long Baseline Campaign, said, “When we first saw this image we were astounded at the spectacular level of detail. HL Tauri is no more than a million years old, yet already its disc appears to be full of forming planets. This one image alone will [revolutionize] theories of planet formation.”

According to Tim de Zeeuw, Director General of ESO, “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. This high resolution image of HL Tauri demonstrates what ALMA can achieve when it operates in its largest configuration and starts a new era in our exploration of the formation of stars and planets.”

Further study on the characteristics of HL Tauri and its embryo of baby planets will enhance the understanding of how the Earth and other planets were formed. That said, it is unlikely that any of us would be around to see the planets around HL Tauri fully formed. Why? Because it is expected to take a few millions of years for the entire planetary formation process to be completed.

[Images Via ESO]