I spy with my little eye

The ALMA telescope has helped humanity spot some very noteworthy (and downright strange) things in the Universe. It should...considering it is the most expensive ground-based telescope on Earth. And now, ALMA just proved its worth once again.

In a paper published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, images from ALMA revealed a planet forming disk around a nearby Sun-like star, TW Hydrae. And in a surprising twist of fate, there is a gap in that disk, which could mean that an infant version of our home planet, or possibly a more massive super-Earth, is beginning to form there.

"Previous studies with optical and radio telescopes confirm that TW Hydrae hosts a prominent disc with features that strongly suggest planets are beginning to coalesce," Sean Andrews, lead author on the paper, stated in the press release. "The new ALMA images show the disc in unprecedented detail, revealing a series of concentric dusty bright rings and dark gaps, including intriguing features that may indicate that a planet with an Earth-like orbit is forming there."

Image credit: ALMA

Not the only one

An examination of the images reveal other gaps that show up, located three billion and six billion kilometres (1.8 billion to 3.7 billion miles) from the central star, similar to the average distances of Uranus and Pluto. They are likely to be the results of particles that came together to form planets, which then swept their orbits clear of dust and gas and shepherded the remaining material into well-defined bands.

This is not the first time that TW Hydrae has been analyzed. Futurism already has an article on this system. Ultimately, it garners so much interest because this particular star is close to Earth and its face on orientation allows a better view from our planet.


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