(Mirror Daily, United States) – While studying data provided by the Chilean Atacama Large Array, astronomers found a forming planet. This is the first occasion researchers have to study the phenomenon. The small celestial body is located in the Taurus constellation.
The images captured with the Chilean Atacama Large Array, or ALMA for short, depict a large disc with concentric striations. Placed in the center of the disc is the HL Tau, a star just a few-million-year-old. The disc surrounding the star is made of nothing more than protoplanetary gas and dust.
Upon further observation, the scientists discovered that there are gaps in the disc. They believe that the empty spaces are created by planetary bodies hidden in the dust. The data gathered by ALMA consist in the first physical evidence of the validity of the solar system formation process.
But ALMA can only analyze the exterior of the disc. Its sensors are not good enough to penetrate the inner regions. Because of this, a team of international scientists decided to put New Mexico’s Karl F Jansky Array (VLA) to use. New Mexico’s technology is able to see into the inner ring in greater detail.
And the effort was rewarded with plenty of interesting and unique data. The VLA detected a clump somewhere in the innermost disc region. Its size is approximately 3 to 8 times larger than Earth’s, but it is a baby planet.
According to the team of astronomers that studied the data collected by both the VLA and ALMA, the clump represents the first stage in the formation of a protoplanet. And the co-leader of the study, Thomas Henning, declared that this is the first time researchers have the opportunity of studying this stage of protoplanetary formation.
The Max Plank astronomers went on to say that exploring planets is a difficult endeavor seeing as they do not give off any visible signs of radiation or light as stars do. They only reflect, re-emit or absorb radiation from nearby stars. So the opportunity of analyzing a distant planet presents itself rarely, and a protoplanet is more of a four leafed clover.
Carlos Carrasco-Gonzales, Henning’s teammate, underlined the scientific value of the discovery. According to him, the opportunity of observing all of the stages of planet formation is a once in a lifetime deal.
The astronomers found a forming planet and they are now able to present physical proof to prove the theory of planetary formation from protoplanetary dust and gasses.
Image source: www.wikimedia.org