It's not unusual these days to find evidence of new world's hanging out beyond our solar-system. The original Kepler project found thousands of candidates that are still being confirmed as potential exo-planets. But finding nearly visible evidence of a planet being formed in the presence of the harsh conditions of a binary star system? That doesn't come along every day.
Just 450 light-years away, shining brightly in the constellation Taurus, the HD 132527 star system just birthed a new planet, and it's been caught in some stunning high-resolution photos from both the Hubble telescope in the past and now from the Atcama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (ALMA) by researchers at Rice University. This is the first time we've ever had clear evidence of what planet formation actually looks like.
There's a tremendous amount of detail being recorded right now by the ALMA array, and it shows dust and gases coming together to actually make a planet. In the photo above, the bright red is where there's the most dust and where carbon monoxide is appearing. That gas is freezing inside the dust, clumping together to form solid rock formations that seem to be sticking together, making an even larger object.
The real kicker was that this discovery was accidental. ALMA was pointed at this part of the sky to help ensure that it was working properly. But when they did that 20 years ago, rings started to appear and they've become more pronounced. This was a happy accident that's allowing us to put some real science behind what's only been theoretical up until this point.
And of course the comparison has to be made between it and Tatooine, and we'll get to watch as it all comes together, forming a planetoid body with properties that we can only speculate at. Recent research has shown that planets that sustain life are more than possible.
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