Beautiful image of young planets sheds new light on planet formation

Using data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, a team of researchers has been conducting a survey on protoplanetary disks — the belts of dust that eventually form planets around young stars. And the researchers have shared fascinating images of the planets from their survey, showing the various stages of planet formation.

alma planet formation

This image shows twenty different protoplanetary disks at various stages of planet formation, taken with the ALMA and collated by the researchers. The team were delighted by the detailed nature of the images that were available from the ALMA: “It was surprising to see possible signatures of planet formation in the very first high-resolution images of young disks,” graduate student and member of the research team Jane Huang said in a statement. “It was important to find out whether these were anomalies or if those signatures were common in disks.”

Previously, studies about planetary formation had only a small number of samples to work from, making it hard to know if observed features were typical or anomalous for early-stage planets. By using data on twenty disks, the researchers can be more statistically confident in their findings and make more useful generalizations about planet formation.

The biggest surprise finding from this survey, according to the researchers, is that large planets which are similar in size and composition to Neptune or Saturn in our Solar System do in fact form much more quickly than previously thought. In addition, these planets tend to form in the outer edges of solar systems, far away from the stars around which they orbit. This is important because it could be an answer to the question of how rocky Earth-sized planets are able to grow without being destroyed in their turbulent younger years.

The current scientific understanding is that a planet is born when dust and gas gradually collect inside a protoplanetary disk, starting off with tiny dust particles and eventually building up to larger rocks. After millions of years, this matter coalesces to form a planet. Under this understanding, it would be expected that this process would be most commonly found in older star systems. But the new ALMA data suggests otherwise: some of the protoplanetary disks that were surveyed were only around one million years old, but still showed the features that would indicate planet formation like rings and gaps. However, even with the larger sample size of twenty protoplanets available to study, more data is needed to know whether this faster planet formation is typical or is an anomaly of a few systems.

Emerging Tech

Watch China’s moon mission touch down on the planet’s far side

Video has been shared of a lander's-eye view of China's Chang'e 4 mission touching down in the Von Kármán Crater on the far side of the moon. The craft captured footage of the descent with a camera which was attached to the probe.

We tried all the latest and greatest smartphones to find the best of 2019

Smartphones are perhaps the most important and personal piece of tech on the planet. That’s why it’s important to pick the best phone for your individual needs. Here are the best smartphones you can buy.
Emerging Tech

Black holes devour nearby stars and spew brilliant X-rays during outburst phase

Physicists have investigated an explosion of X-ray light originating from a black hole in an outburst phase. The data suggests during an outburst, black holes consume huge amounts of stellar material and shrink in size by a factor of ten.

Among hundreds of choices, these are the best 25 SNES games of all time

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System might be the greatest game console ever made, but what are the best titles for the system? Here are our picks for the best SNES games.
Emerging Tech

Why wait? Here are some CES 2019 gadgets you can buy right now

Companies come to CES to wow us with their cutting edge technology, but only a few products are slated to hit the market right away. Here is our list of the best CES 2019 tech you can buy right now.
Emerging Tech

Drones: New rules could soon allow flights over people and at night

With commercial operators in mind, the U.S. government is looking to loosen restrictions on drone flights with a set of proposals that would allow the machines greater freedom to fly over populated areas and also at night.
Emerging Tech

Yamaha’s new app lets you tune your motorcycle with a smartphone

It used to be that if you wanted to tune your motorcycle’s engine and tweak its performance, you needed specialized tools and even more specialized knowledge. Yamaha’s new Power Tuner app changes that.
Emerging Tech

Short film celebrates New Yorker’s amazing robot costumes

New York City resident Peter Kokis creates stunning robot costumes out of household trash. His designs are huge, heavy, and extremely intricate, and never fail to turn heads when he's out and about.
Emerging Tech

In a first for humankind, China is growing plants on the moon

Having recently landed a probe on the far side of the moon, China announced that it managed to grow the first plant on the moon, too. Here's why that matters for deep space travel.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

Ford has developed 'Robutt,' a sweaty robot bottom that's designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for thousands of hours. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
Emerging Tech

Want to know which drones are flying near you? There’s an app for that

Want to know what that mysterious drone buzzing over your head is up to? A new system developed by AirMap, Google Wing, and could soon tell you -- via a map on your phone.
Emerging Tech

A Japanese hotel fires half its robot staff for being bad at their jobs

Japan’s oddball Henn na Hotel has fired half of its 243 robot staff. The reason? Because these labor-saving machines turned out to be causing way more problems than they were solving.
Emerging Tech

CERN plans to build a massive particle collider that dwarfs the LHC

CERN already has the world's biggest particle accelerator. Now it wants a bigger one. Meet the 9 billion euro Future Circular Collider that will allow physicists to extend their study of the universe and matter at the smallest level.