Speed Reads

space stuff

Astronomers reveal 'best image ever' of planet formation

The ALMA telescope in Chile has provided what astronomers are calling its "best image ever."

The photo shows the birth of a planet in stunning detail, offering new insight into what our own solar system may have looked like billions of years ago. The ALMA telescope sees radio wavelengths, and this image is sharper than anything NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured.

(ALMA Observatory, via Facebook.com/ESO Astronomy)

ALMA's image shows a planet-forming disc of dust and gas surrounding a young star, known as HL Tau. The star is roughly 450 light-years away from Earth, in the constellation Taurus. Catherine Vlahakis, ALMA's deputy program scientist, said in a statement that the photo "will revolutionize theories of planet formation."

The disc surrounding HL Tau is "much more developed" than astronomers expected for the star's age, implying that "the planet-formation process may be faster than previously thought," the ESO noted. Studying the disc may give scientists a better understanding of how Earth formed.