For the first time ever, astronomers are literally watching an alien planet form

Want to see a planet literally being born? This research team at the University of Arizona has you covered.

Astronomers at the school have spotted a developing planet 450 light-years away from Earth, and they’ve been chronicling the progress. It marks the first time astronomers have actually been able to watch a planet form, although we do know how the process works. The discovery came about as the team took a closer look at a dust cloud surrounding a star called LkCa15 near the Taurus constellation.

The strange part? This cloud had a gaping hole at its center, as if something had been eating away at it.

According to Gizmodo, scientists have theorized that planets are formed in the center of disks from the dust and debris surrounding them. The university’s Large Binocular Telescope and the Giant Magellan Telescope in Chile have picked up signs of heat around the “gap,” which makes it even more likely that mass is compiling into a new planet. The author of a paper on the study, published in Nature, noted that it’s the first time we’ve glimpsed a planet that is still in the process of forming.

Check out the images they captured, coupled with an artist’s rendering, below:

If you’ve ever wanted to feel insignificant, while in simultaneous awe at the grandeur of the universe, that should do the trick. 

(Via Gizmodo, Nature)

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