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A Dusty Twist Marks the Site of a New Planet’s Birth

20 May 2020, 18:49 UTC
A Dusty Twist Marks the Site of a New Planet’s Birth
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This image shows the disc around the young AB Aurigae star, where ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) has spotted signs of planet birth. Close to the centre of the image, in the inner region of the disc, we see the ‘twist’ (in very bright yellow) that scientists believe marks the spot where a planet is forming. This twist lies at about the same distance from the AB Aurigae star as Neptune from the Sun. The image was obtained with the VLT’s SPHERE instrument in polarised light. Credit: ESO/Boccaletti et al.

All of the planets in our Solar System formed from a disk of dust and gas surrounding our home star—the Sun—about four and a half billion years ago. Many—maybe even most—of the stars we see in the sky have planets orbiting them, and they all probably formed the same way. But planetary formation is a very short time in a star’s total life span, cosmically speaking, and it’s very hard to actually observe it in action from here on Earth, both because of the small chances of it happening right now and of the difficulty of directly observing things as small as exoplanets in the bright glare of ...

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