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Forum » SpaceEngine » Science and Astronomy Discussions » Planet Formation Captured in Photo (My Taurus constellation representin'! :P)
Planet Formation Captured in Photo
ProteusDate: Thursday, 06.11.2014, 15:32 | Message # 1
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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-29932609



Quote
The clearest ever image of planets forming around an infant star has been taken by the Alma radio telescope.

In a vast disc of dust and gas, dark rings are clearly visible: gaps in the cloud, swept clear by brand new planets in orbit.

The sun-like star at the centre, HL Tau, is less than a million years old and is 450 light years from Earth in the constellation Taurus.

The image was made possible by Alma's new high-resolution capabilities.

Because the process of planet formation takes place in the midst of such a huge dust cloud, it can't be observed using visible light.

Alma, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, has snapped the impressive new image using much longer wavelengths, which it detects by comparing the signal from multiple antennas up to 15km apart.

To test out its latest high-resolution capability, only in operation since September, Alma scientists pointed the antennas at HL Tau. They found themselves looking at a "protoplanetary disc" in more detail than ever before.

"I think it's phenomenal," said Dr Aprajita Verma, an astrophysicist at the University of Oxford.

"This shows how exciting Alma is going to be - it's going to be an incredible instrument."

Prof Tim de Zeeuw is director general of the European Southern Observatory, one of several organisations involved in Alma. He said: "Most of what we know about planet formation today is based on theory. Images with this level of detail have up to now been relegated to computer simulations or artist's impressions."

Dr Verma agreed that the image was a significant new piece of evidence - particularly because the star HL Tau is very young.

"I think the big result is that you might have expected just a smooth disc," she told the BBC.

"But you're really seeing multiple rings - and where it's darker, that's where you've cleared the material already in the disc."

The whole process is happening faster than we would have predicted from existing data, Dr Verma explained.

"It means that things are coagulating. It's really a planetary system, that you're seeing at a very early time.

"These rings will form planets, asteroids, comets... And eventually as the star evolves, this will cool and settle and there will be more clearing and more individual objects, just like we see in our solar system."





 
FastFourierTransformDate: Thursday, 06.11.2014, 18:01 | Message # 2
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OOOOOOOHHHHHH This is amazing!!!!! biggrin biggrin biggrin biggrin
 
apenpaapDate: Thursday, 06.11.2014, 18:32 | Message # 3
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That is fantastic. Those lines are incredibly clear and obvious.




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spacerDate: Thursday, 06.11.2014, 18:37 | Message # 4
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planet or star or the whole system?




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Edited by spacer - Thursday, 06.11.2014, 18:37
 
anonymousgamerDate: Thursday, 06.11.2014, 20:17 | Message # 5
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Quote spacer ()
planet or star or the whole system?


It's a picture of the whole system, as it's forming. You're seeing the protoplanetary disk around a star.





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WatsisnameDate: Friday, 07.11.2014, 04:04 | Message # 6
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This is so awesome. I've been hoping for such an image for ages, and it's just like what we expected from theory and artist renditions. Amazing what we can do now with interferometry. smile

Next I hope for resolving of the Sagittarius A* event horizon. How epic would that be? cool





 
midtskogenDate: Friday, 07.11.2014, 07:34 | Message # 7
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Is there a scale to this image?

This kind of resolution is getting interesting. Resolution wise it's a 15 km wide instrument, and we likely need to speak of microarcseconds.

It's cool to see how the boundaries get pushed with technology. Not that many decades ago it would seem that we were hitting the limit of what we could observe. But then adaptive optics came along, and interferometry, not just theoretical possibilities, but as actual, working instruments.





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WatsisnameDate: Friday, 07.11.2014, 08:33 | Message # 8
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Not sure what the scale of this disk is, but several hundred AU at least.

And resolution is not quite microarcsecond scale -- that would be the holy grail of interferometry, and sufficient to resolve Sagittarius A*'s event horizon. Right now this imagery is pushing 5AU @ 450LY, or about 36 milliarcsecond resolution. Still far better than what others can achieve so far, in any wavelength as far as I am aware.

Resolution can be even improved further by observing at shorter wavelengths. ALMA is pretty close to its maximum baseline distance of 16km, so there is not much room for improvement on that front.





 
n0b0dyDate: Friday, 07.11.2014, 09:05 | Message # 9
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Can't wait for the moment SE will be able to display this cry
 
midtskogenDate: Friday, 07.11.2014, 11:41 | Message # 10
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If it's several hundred AU, the disk appears remarkably dense far out (but I'm not quite sure what we're seeing since this is not visible light).

Still, 36 milliarcsec is only 36,000 microarcsec, so only a factor of 10 from where microarcsec is becoming more convenient than millliarcsec. biggrin





NIL DIFFICILE VOLENTI
 
HarbingerDawnDate: Friday, 07.11.2014, 15:01 | Message # 11
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See a lot of discussion about scale, so... http://www.almaobservatory.org/en....genesis

Just from eyeballing the comparison image, the disk looks to have a radius of ~100 AU





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Edited by HarbingerDawn - Friday, 07.11.2014, 15:05
 
Forum » SpaceEngine » Science and Astronomy Discussions » Planet Formation Captured in Photo (My Taurus constellation representin'! :P)
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