back to article HOT YOUNG STAR about to GIVE BIRTH, long range images show

Boffins have been left in shock after glimpsing the interstellar equivalent of a teenage pregnancy. Researchers used the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) to snap super-high resolution images of a young star in the process of giving birth to a series of planets. The team who took the candid shot were shocked to see such …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is what happens

    When you teach sex education in star schools: single star parents.

    (For those who find this excessively feeble, a Conservative MP announced just a week or so ago that sex education led to teenage pregnancies. Ignoring the fact that the numbers are actually dropping)

    1. NumptyScrub

      Re: This is what happens

      Ah yes, that self-evident truth that "if you don't tell them about it, they'll never work it out for themselves".

      One has to wonder which miscreant decided to inform my 2 guinea pigs though, I have studiously avoided the subject whenever they were in earshot >.<

    2. Wzrd1

      Re: This is what happens

      "(For those who find this excessively feeble, a Conservative MP announced just a week or so ago that sex education led to teenage pregnancies. Ignoring the fact that the numbers are actually dropping)"

      This gives me some consolation across the pond. It proves that the US does not hold a monopoly on moronic conservatives, we only hold the current largest market share.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just me, or does this look like a star test?

    An inner focus test from a mirrored 'scope. :)

    1. tony2heads

      Re: Just me, or does this look like a star test?

      ALMA is an INTERFEROMETER, not a large dish.

      It produces images using Fourier transforms of the sampled mutual coherence function

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Just me, or does this look like a star test?

        "It produces images using Fourier transforms of the sampled mutual coherence function"

        Upvoted. I have almost no idea what it means but it sounds all proper sciency and goes well with the impressive discovery in the article :-)

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @tony2heads Re: Just me, or does this look like a star test?

        Was kind of meant to be a joke...hence the smiley...


        1. Martin Budden

          Re: @tony2heads Just me, or does this look like a star test?

          We have a Joke Alert! icon for jokes.

  3. Kalmairn

    No better way to start a Friday...

    ...than to read about something as truly awesome as this. The picture alone was worth the trip.


  4. Mystic Megabyte


    I completely fail to understand how they get this image. Is it composed pixel-like by scanning tiny areas of the planetary disk. Considering the distance I don't know how you could aim with such accuracy.

    But have a beer and consider me amazed.

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Huh!

      I think it's not optical but very high resolution radio imaging from an array of radio telescopes. Dust cloud.


      The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is an astronomical interferometer of radio telescopes in the Atacama desert of northern Chile. Since a high and dry site is crucial to millimeter wavelength operations, the array has been constructed on the Chajnantor plateau at 5,000 meters altitude, near Llano de Chajnantor Observatory and Atacama Pathfinder Experiment. Consisting of 66 12-meter (39 ft), and 7-meter (23 ft) diameter radio telescopes observing at millimeter and submillimeter wavelengths, ALMA is expected to provide insight on star birth during the early universe and detailed imaging of local star and planet formation.

      ALMA is an international partnership between Europe, the United States, Canada, East Asia and the Republic of Chile. Costing about US$ 1.4 billion, it is the most expensive ground-based telescope in operation.[1][2] ALMA began scientific observations in the second half of 2011 and the first images were released to the press on 3 October 2011. The array has been fully operational since March 2013

      1. Mystic Megabyte

        Re: Huh!

        Yes I know it is a radio telescope but let me use an optical one as an example to clarify my question.

        With a small telescope I could see the whole of the moon and record an image of it.

        With a big telescope I would see only small amounts of the moon but by moving it I could stitch together a picture of the whole thing.

        So is the image of the planetary disc in the article recorded in one go or made up lots of small images?

  5. James Micallef Silver badge

    about to GIVE BIRTH

    So "about to" is actually a few million years, right?

    Have the contractions even started yet?

    1. stucs201

      Re: So "about to" is actually a few million years, right?

      On the timescale of a star's lifetime - yes a few million years is "about to". Just as "next month" would be a long time for a mayfly.

    2. Gordo Rex

      Re: about to GIVE BIRTH

      What great timing! If we leave now at about 1,000 km/h, we should get there just as something interesting is about to happen.

      ----> Because, well, it's Beerday.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Have the contractions even started yet?"

      If there is a star in the middle then the first one has...

    4. Martin Budden

      Re: about to GIVE BIRTH

      Given that HL Tau is no more than a million years old and the planetary formation has already progressed this far I'd guess that "about to" is a lot less than another million years from now. I wouldn't be surprised to see actual planets in half that time.

      Actually I would be surprised to see anything in half that time, as my eyesight probably won't be up to much by then.

    5. Wzrd1

      Re: about to GIVE BIRTH

      The star isn't about to give birth to anything.

      The molecular cloud gave birth to a stellar system. *Whyinhell* does any astronomer think that the forces that caused collection of matter sufficient to "build" a star is insufficient to also generate eddies sufficient to build plants (and protostellar winds adding to the effects)?

      Hell, enough matter collecting to form a protostar is more than sufficient to cause further eddies in the local gravitational environment and help the planet formation process along.

  6. Crisp

    Finally! A star that looks good giving birth!

    I'd rather watch this than Josie Cunningham any day.

  7. alain williams Silver badge

    Teenage pregnancy ?

    Where is the daddy ?

  8. Stumpy

    You sure that's not just some close-up of a random intern's tie-dyed t-shirt?

  9. frank ly

    I remember when ....

    ... people were arguing about whether other not stars would even have planets. Now they take pictures of planets around other stars and argue about the exact mechanics and timescales of their formation. That's progress.

    Next up: The existence of intelligent life outside our solar system?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I remember when ....

      Pope, writing in the 18th century, did not even think it controversial .

      ...see world on world compose one universe

      ...what other planets circle other suns

      What varied being peoples every star...

      It took 19th century Biblical inerrancy to make astronomy controversial. The country that put men on the moon has people who believe in Creationism.

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: I remember when ....

        For the record, it wasn't uncontroversial in Christian circles only until recently. Giordiano Bruno was burned at the stake for saying the same things and refusing to recant. (I don't know which surprises me most. that he refused to recant to save himself from an agonizing death. Or that he was so right on so little evidence! )

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I remember when ....

          As I recall from my days at U, Giordano Bruno was not burned at the stake for affirming the plurality of worlds. It was because he denied just about all the major Catholic doctrines, thus denying the legitimacy of the Pope, the Catholic hierarchy and the clergy. When looking for a reason why an important man gets executed, follow the money and the power.

          After the event the word may get put out that it was for some irrelevant reason, but that is PR. If you say "Giordano Bruno was executed because he said the Catholic Church was a complete fraud based on lies", some people might wake up and start thinking.

        2. cray74

          Re: I remember when ....

          "Giordiano Bruno was burned at the stake for saying the same things and refusing to recant."

          His astronomical theories were only a minor part of the reason he burned at the stake, though he did endure some ridicule from contemporary scientists. In addition to his claims that stars were other suns with exoplanets and that they might have life, Bruno went on to suggest they had different gods. And that the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the virginity of Mary, and Transubstantiation were all nonsense.

          19th and 20th Century writers like to make Bruno into a martyr for science, but the guy worked hard to troll the Catholic Church with his opinions on religion.

      2. Bunbury

        Re: I remember when ....

        "Pope, writing in the 18th century, did not even think it controversial", "It took 19th century Biblical inerrancy to make astronomy controversial"

        Probably more accurate to say that this has gone in cyles. e.g. Copernicus in the 16th century seems to have had little grief with his heliocentric model (perhaps a special case as his main work was effectively posthumous). Galileo though was seen as a heretic by the papal authorities. Pope, as a Catholic living in Protestant England, may have escaped similar censure if it was seen to wind up Rome more than Canterbury perhaps?

        Given that Pope was sufficiently well versed in ancient greek to translate both the Iliad and the Odyssey into English, he was probably wll aware that in addition to the geocentric view, the ancient Greeks also considered a heliocentric view, and a view that both sun and earth orbited a separate central fire.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I remember when ....

          Copernicus' problem was that at the time the Catholic Church had confused Aristotle with Holy Writ and had been treating his writings in a way that would have struck the man himself as very odd. Depending on how you view it, and perhaps this is me trolling historians of science slightly, an argument can be constructed that Rome and Christianity caused a block on scientific progress that lasted between 1000 and 1500 years - the Antikythera Mechanism was beyond Galileo's ability to construct.

          Galileo spent a lot of his time winding up the Establishment (sometimes very amusingly, as in his letters to Kepler), and spent a lot of time making influential enemies, which has to be factored in. I very much doubt that an Archbishop of Canterbury would have worried in the slightest about Pope's views because they were firmly in the tradition of British empiricism - and a plurality of worlds did no harm because that would mean that no matter how catholic the Pope was there were worlds not under his jurisdiction, so why not countries?

          Pope was quite excited by the new ideas of astronomy and was communicating them to a wider educated audience. Milton did a rather poor job in Paradise Lost, no Phil Plait or Sean Carroll; Pope did a lot better. I don't know if he was aware of the ideas of some of the Greeks, but he was certainly well up on what people in the Royal Society were discussing.

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Intelligent Life

      There is very little inside. Bound to be more outside.

      1. EddieD

        Re: Intelligent Life

        To quote "The Universe Song" from "Monty Python's Meaning of Life"

        "Pray that there's intelligent life somewhere out in space

        'Cos there's bugger all down here on earth"

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I remember when ....

      We'd have to figure out if there is intelligent life here first. Lots of evidence points to "no".

  10. Robert Helpmann??


    So how many wee little planets should we expect to buy diapers for? Seven? Eight?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Hot young star about to give birth"?

    I'm hoping that in this case we will be spared the "post-pregnancy diet and workout" follow-up 6 months from now!

  12. Geoff Johnson

    Looks to me like at least one big planet near the star, then some small ones before several more big ones. I suppose this kind of fits with the high number of very large known exoplanets that have close in orbits. Though that could also just be down to big close planets being much easier to detect. Apart from the big close one, its a bit like our solar system too.

    My biggest conclusion is that I want to see more images like this.

    1. Martin Budden

      Are the bright rings where the planets will be, or are the gaps where the planets will be? Because a single big lump of rock (i.e. a forming planet) would clear its orbit of dust leaving an empty gap in the disk, wouldn't it?

      1. Reginald Gerard

        No, because the accretion of your 'lump of rock' and the gas both rotate at the same speed.

  13. Scroticus Canis
    Paris Hilton

    Jasperisms - higher wavelengths and wandering radio dishes - WTF!

    "higher wavelengths" ¿Que? - the photons have an increased girth or what? Maybe you confuse wavelengths (longer / shorter) with frequencies (lower/ higher)?

    "The telescopes which make up the ALMA array can be moved around a plateau in Atacama desert". - No they can't, they themselves can pan and tilt but they definitely don't move about the plateau, watch the video link you supplied Jasper.

    "stars form within clouds of gas and dust which are squeezed together" - gravitational collapse is not being squeezed, or do you you think a god cups it's hands around the gas and pushes inwards.

    "dust then forms rings which again coalesce into larger particles and eventually great big chunks" - um the dust and gas coalesce into the "big chunks" under mutual gravitation and the "chunks" mass gives them increased gravitational attraction which causes the rings by sweeping in the other dust and gas.

    Paris because she doesn't have a clue either.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Such wonders

    And here we are STILL arguing over who's Sky daddy is the best.

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