Wow. Wow wow wow wow.
Since 2009, an international team of astronomers, based in the Chilean Andes, have been studying the molecular gases and tiny dust grains from which stars, planetary systems, galaxies, and, yes, life are formed. As part of their work -- building the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) -- the team has been studying HD 142527, a fledgling star that is around 2 million years old, resides about 450 light-years from Earth, and is nearing the end of its formation process. Surrounding the young star -- as typically surrounds young stars -- is a disk of spinning dust and gas, the stuff left over from its formation. Observing HD 142527, the researchers recently saw something amazing: young planets forming around it, revealing a never-before-seen stage of planetary evolution. They have now published their findings in the journal Nature.
To be clear: They saw, with (technology-aided) human eyes, planets in the process of forming. And: They are now sharing the image with the rest of us. And that image is above.
Pretty mind-blowing, right? The first-ever direct observation of this stage of planet genesis, an image of a nascent star hundreds of light years away, and it's science and it's art and it's hard to tell whether it's a photo or the cover of a Pink Floyd album.