Review 2014:
One Thing:
Francis Irving.

Science  The slightly Doctor Who sounding Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) is a telescope high up in the mountains of Chile.

It has the clearest night skies in the world.

They look like this.

Last month it took the best photograph of the year.

The fact that is hasn't been on the front page of even one newspaper could only be explained by turning to fictional conspiracies.

Imagine the birth of a brand new solar system.

It looks like this:

You can see the baby yellow star in the centre (its light takes 450 years to get to us).

The star was made from a great cloud of dust called a nebula, whose remnants have been swirled around the star into a red flat disk.

The remarkable thing about the photo is that you can see planets.

The planets slowly formed where the dust happened to be extra thick. They sucked more dust to them using gravity, and then began to orbit around the star.

The planets have swept up matter in their orbits, forming the black rings you can see around the sun.

(It was taken using a new seemingly magical trick, where several telescopes spread out are exactly synchronised together, and then the light they receive processed as if it had hit one giant telescope the size of their distance apart)

If you waited a while, you'd see the planets gather up all the remaining dust, leaving a solar system much like ours. Just a star, planets and a few scattered asteroids.

This is how our friendly sun and our blue planet were made, a few billion years ago.

The one thing that hardly anyone knows is that we can see it. Happening now, to a Sun-like star called HL Tau, in the constellation Taurus.

Want more? There's a press release with more about the ALMA picture. And on my blog, six other surprising recent things about space.

You can follow Francis on Twitter @frabcus.

No comments: