In a first, astronomers witness the birth of a planet from gas and dust


VIP/Donor & WBF Founding Member
May 6, 2010
Boston, MA
In the first convincing observation of its kind, astronomers have directly imaged a newborn planet still forming around its star. The planet, hotter than any in our solar system, supports what astronomers have long believed: that such bodies are born of the disks of gas and dust that coalesce around young stars.

“After decades of speculation, it’s nice to actually see one. It’s very comforting,” says astronomer Kevin Heng of the University of Bern in Switzerland, who was not involved in the work.


May 25, 2010
SF Bay Area
Quite wonderful image. Back when I was an undergrad (more than 50 years ago) we learned that the theory predicted this was the likely path toward most planet formation, particularly if planets were commonplace. Back then, it wasn't clear whether planets, particularly earth like planets or planets that could support life were all that common. Now we have direct evidence of both the existence of planets and now the actual formation of a planet. It is a case where the theory had to wait for the instrumentation and observations to improve to the degree the theory could be confirmed. Next, the observations, upon further analysis, will show us things that theory has not predicted and that will lead to new theories and more observations. For astronomers a very virtuous circle.

BTW, in those days, studying planets was not a popular sub-field of astronomy. One of our assistant professors didn't get tenure and had to leave. His name was Carl Sagan. He found his way to Cornell, which hired him. It was Harvard's loss.

Likes: Al M.

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