Seeing the Moment Planets Start to Form

ALMA captured this high-resolution image of the protoplanetary disk surrounding DG Taurus at a 1.3 mm wavelength. The young star is still embedded in its disk, and the smooth appearance, absent of ring-like structures, indicates a phase shortly before planets form. Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), S. Ohashi, et al.

Nature makes few duplicates, and planets are as distinct from one another as snowflakes are. But planets all start out in the same circumstances: the whirling disks of material surrounding young stars. ALMA’s made great progress imaging these disks and the telltale gaps excavated by young, still-forming planets.

But new images from ALMA (Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array) show a star and disk so young that there are no telltale gaps in the disk. Is this the moment that planets start to form?

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