With the help of the sophisticated ALMA telescope in Chile, we could be getting our first real look at how stars and planets are formed.

Video Summary

In the Orion nebula, space is filled with gas and dust that form protostars (or baby stars). While inside of their gas and dust “cocoons,” baby stars are shielded from the view of regular telescopes. As the star grows, it begins to burn through the cloud of gas and dust surrounding it. At the same time, nearby stars help to eat away at this shell from the outside with their own radiation. If a large enough disk of gas and dust around the star exists, planets may form. Planets are made from electrical forces first, and as they grow, gravity takes over, forcing clumps of material to attract each other. As a planet forms, it eats up the gas and dust cloud in its orbit around the star, leaving spaces like the grooves on a record. Using the ALMA telescope, scientists may be able to form the clearest picture yet of the process of planets being formed. They have found a star with the notable grooves just 450 light years from Earth. The disk measures about four times the size of our solar system. It is possible that the gaps in the disk are because planets like ours could be growing. The system is only a million years old (very young for a star) so it is entirely possible that planets not unlike those in our own solar system are being formed.