Original Caption: "The image shows 20 spectacular protoplanetary disks captured by ALMA's (Atacama Large Millimeter Array first Large Program, known as the Disk Substructures at High Angular Resolution Project (DSHARP). In a focused observation effort that included hours of data collected over several months, researchers imaged 20 nearby protoplanetary disks to learn more about the earliest stages of planet formation, and the staggering quantity of data from DSHARP has just been released.
It has long been thought that planetary systems are likely to have their origins in so-called protoplanetary disks---compressed circles, ellipses, or spirals of gas and dust, which form around protostars in the early stages of their development. The process by which planets emerge from the diffuse protoplanetary disks, however, is NOT well understood. It is particularly challenging to understand the very earliest stages of their evolution when dust within a protoplanetary disk coalesces into planetesimals and the seeds of planets are formed.
Astronomers (specifically planetologist) know that a planet's first growth spurt, from individual grains to a body a few kilometers across, must happen quickly in astronomical terms, but the lack of observational data has made pinning down the physics of this growth challenging. Fortunately, this recently changed with the opening of new telescopes such as ALMA.
Eventually, astronomers hope to be able to accurately predict what type of planetary system will evolve from any particular protoplanetary disk. DSHARP takes us a step towards this goal by providing a detailed view of the substructures (the varied patterns of dark and light circles, ellipses, or spirals you can see in each protoplanetary disk), and so help us to understand their significance." (Somewhat edited.)
S. Andrews et al.;
NSF, S. Dagnello,
CC BY-SA 4.0.
Image link: Wikimedia Commons: File:Pitch perfect in DSHARP at ALMA.jpg.
Local file: local link: protoplanetary_disks_alma.html.
File: Planetary systems file: protoplanetary_disks_alma.html.