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What’s in that Dusty Gap? (Planet Formation is a Messy Process)

27 Sep 2018, 01:54 UTC
What’s in that Dusty Gap? (Planet Formation is a Messy Process) ALMA(ESO/NAOJ/NRAO); C. Brogan, B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

Tiny acorns make giant oak trees. But did you know that entire planets are born from pieces even smaller than acorns? Down to individual molecules themselves?

All the rocks and ices and gases of a planet’s layers and atmosphere come from tiny specks floating in a diffuse cloud of gas and dust, or nebula. When the cloud collapses to form a new star, it already contains the basic ingredients of all the planets, moons, asteroids, and comets in the stellar system. I should mention that astronomers use the word “dust” to refer to any particle or clump of matter that’s in a solid state—from simple silica to complex methanol.

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