What a cute baby. . .solar system

The folks at Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) just released an insanely detailed image of a developing star and the surrounding disc of material that may become its planetary system.

Credit: ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ); C. Brogan, B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)
Credit: ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ); C. Brogan, B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Phil Plait explains why this image is more than aesthetically interesting at Slate.

From what we understand of planet formation, a star and disk this young shouldn’t have a planetary system evolved enough to create these gaps. That’s a bit of a shock. Research published in 2008 also indicated the presence of a new planet, and I’ll be curious to see how this new observation fits in with that work as well. – Phil Plait

HT: Amy Shira Teitel

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…

How is astronomy like biology? Every time we build better tools for observation (eg, space telescopes & next-generation sequencers), we learn about the incredible variety of things that we are missing and get to wildly speculate about what it all means (we also get to regularly confuse “wild speculation” for actual “knowledge”).

“Exoplanet Neighborhood” by Randall Munroe at xkcd (CC BY-NC 2.5)