A ‘protoplanetary system’ in formation?

What appears to be a solar system in the process of formation has been imaged by the newly commissioned Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope (see Fig. 1).1 The ALMA telescope, located 5,000 meters up in the Andes of northern Chile, on the Chajnantor plateau in the Atacama Desert, consists of 66 mobile radio-astronomy dishes, which can be spaced up to 16 kilometers (10 miles) apart. This effectively combines their power into one 16-km-wide telescope which results in detailed images never before achieved. The telescope’s submillimeter wavelength resolution allows it to see through the clouds of dust that obscure it from sight in visible light images. Future improvements to the facility are expected to more than double its resolution.

HL Tauri

Figure 1: Caption from original article Ref. 1. “Planets are forming around HL Tauri, a young, variable star just 1 million years old. They’re leaving their imprints in the dusty disk leftover from the star’s formation, a protoplanetary system that spans 235 astronomical units (the distance between Earth and the Sun). The innermost disk gap appears at a radius of 20-30 a.u., roughly the size of Neptune’s orbit around the Sun. A second gap appears further out at 70 a.u., which would lie outside Pluto’s orbit, and still more gaps appear beyond that.” Credit: ALMA (NRAO/ESO/NAOJ) / C. Brogan / B. Saxton

This leaves us asking questions. Have planets been imaged while forming around young stars? Have protoplanetary systems—as they are called—actually been observed while the formation process is happening? If so, how do they fit into the biblical creationist worldview? According to the latter God created the stars on Day 4 of Creation Week about 6000 years ago (as measured by Earth’s clocks). Continue reading