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    Astronomers Have Taken An Actual Picture Of Planets Forming And It's Incredible

    It's the sharpest photograph ever taken by the world's biggest astronomical project.

    This image shows actual planets forming around an actual infant star 450 light years away from us.

    ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ); C. Brogan, B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

    The star at the centre of the system is called HL Tau and is in the constellation Taurus as you look from Earth. The orange disk that surrounds it is made up of dust and gas.

    The dark bands in the image are where the gas and dust has been swept up by newly formed planets as they orbit the star. The star system is only around a million years old, making it incredibly young compared to our own 4.6 billion-year-old solar system.

    The photo was taken by a telescope called the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile. ALMA detects light between the radio and infrared parts of the spectrum, and is the largest astronomical project in the world. Astronomers tested its new high-resolution capabilities by taking the photograph you can see above.

    ALMA combines light from 66 individual antenna on the Chajnantor plateau, at 5000 meters above sea level in northern Chile, to create images of space at a better resolution than we've ever seen before.

    When we first saw this image we were astounded at the spectacular level of detail. HL Tauri is no more than a million years old, yet already its disc appears to be full of forming planets. This one image alone will revolutionize theories of planet formation.

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