Around 370 light years away from Earth, a big, cloudy planet is in the middle of being born — and astronomers have snapped an incredibly detailed image of its birthing process. The picture is one of the most robust we have of a planet forming, and it could help us learn more about how worlds outside our Solar System came to be.
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute, working with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile, were able to capture a planet about a few times the mass of Jupiter in the midst of forming around a young star. The image shows the object taking shape inside the large cloud of gas and dust that surrounds new stars, what is known as a protoplanetary disk. These disks are made up of all the materials leftover when a star is born, and the dust within them can converge to form new planets.