Despite the fact that legions of scientists and scholars have been attempting to understand everything about our world since we first gained sentience, we’re still a very long way off. There are so many unknowns involved in our planet’s formation, that only last December we finally confirmed a long-standing theory about the creation of the moon.
And as we just figured out that a planet collided with Earth, knocked free a chunk of it and then fused with the remaining planet, before subsequently becoming the moon along with the floating chuck of Earth, it’s only natural that the full extent of what went on before recorded history remains largely a mystery.
But scientists might have just found a way to learn a great deal about how our planet came to be. This is because the ALMA telescope in Chile picked up the birth of an Earth-like planet in a nearby solar system. It is yet unknown how big the planet will be, but its proximity to its star is almost the same as ours from the sun.
According to Sean Andrews, lead author of the study and scientists with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics,
Previous studies with optical and radio telescopes confirm that this star hosts a prominent disk with features that strongly suggest planets are beginning to coalesce. The new ALMA images show the disk in unprecedented detail, revealing a series of concentric, dusty, bright rings and dark gaps, including intriguing features that suggest a planet with an Earth-like orbit is forming there.
Lying some 175 light years away from Earth, the star hosting the newly forming planet is only 10 million years old. With its protoplanetary disk facing our planet, its entire system has become a popular target for amateur and professional astronomers alike. Plus, the entire system closely resembles our own as it was when it was just ten million years old.
So far, scientists aren’t sure what size the new planet will end up being, but they are quite sure that it won’t be any smaller than Earth. It could end up the same size or even bigger, possibly a super-Earth, but definitely smaller than our neighboring ice giants Neptune and Uranus.
The discovery was made using ALMA, or the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, an entire network of dozens of radio dishes situated in the Chilean Andes. The researchers behind the discovery also managed to take a picture of the forming star, and are speculating that two more planets might be forming in the solar system.
Image source: Wikimedia