Sunday, March 03, 2013

planets forming seen

This is something that I've thinking about for a while now...

We're able to look so deeply into space with tremendous resolution. For many decades, the stars we trained our telescopes on were... advanced. Mature. In their "adult" life. The novae and supernovae recorded, and that we're capturing data on with greater frequency and accuracy, show the "autumn years" of stars. Planetary nebulae dot the night sky. And lately, it seems, as we probe deeper into the cores of diffuse nebulae clouds, at the tremendous detail afforded by space telescopes like Hubble and Chandra, we are noting bubbles and pockets where we surmise new stars are being born. And given all the extraordinary successes at detecting exoplanets, by various methods, it is becoming abundantly clear that many of the stars in our galaxy harbour systems of planets.

But what I've been wondering about, more so lately, for some reason, is the early solar systems.

Of course, when we look out into space, we're looking back in time. So everything we're seeing is in the past. Historical. Has already happened.

But the Universe is big. And time is long. So, should we not be seeing stars and solar systems at all ages? Not just stable systems like ours. Not dying stars that go boom. Or the remnants of long dead stars, casting off shells around tiny white suns. Should we not see stars igniting? Should we not see planets forming?

When I spotted the article in Astronomy referring to a "stellar womb," I found it somewhat eerie in its timing. It seems that astronomers at the ESO, using the VLT, with data from Hubble, have captured direct imagery of planets forming.

That just gives me goose bumps.

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