Twenty nearby protoplanetary disks, as imaged by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, all show rings and gaps that indicate the formation of planets on shorter-than-expected time scales. Image: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), S. Andrews et al.; NRAO/AUI/NSF, S. Dagnello
The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array has captured stunning views of 20 nearby protoplanetary disks suggesting that large planets similar to Saturn and Neptune form much faster than current theory allows and that they tend to form in the outer reaches of their solar systems.
The observations, part of a major ALMA initiative known as the Disk Substructures at High Angular Resolution Project, or DSHARP, may also may help explain how smaller rocky planets manage to survive in the chaos of young systems.
“The goal of this months-long observing campaign was to search for structural commonalities and differences in protoplanetary disks. ALMA’s remarkably sharp vision has revealed previously unseen structures and unexpectedly complex patterns,” said Sean Andrews, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and one of the leaders of the DSHARP campaign.
“We are seeing distinct details around a wide assortment of young stars of various masses,” he said. “The most compelling interpretation of these highly diverse, small-scale features is that there ...