ALMA witness stellar growth spurt

Have you ever experienced a growth spurt? Three times within a year or so, you need new T-shirts or new shoes, just because you’re growing so fast. It happens with teenagers, but also with baby stars. By comparing new ALMA observations with older measurements from another observatory, astronomers have discovered that a massive proto-star experienced a huge growth spurt over

Do you see the large ‘hole’ in this ALMA image? It looks as if someone cut a circular hole in a blue veil, with a large cluster of galaxies right behind the hole. But appearances can be deceiving. In fact, the ‘blue veil’ originates behind the galaxy cluster. It’s the so-called cosmic background radiation –the faint remnant from the energy

Clean gaps hint at new planets

If you don’t clean your room, dust will settle everywhere. The same is true for space. Young stars are surrounded by flat disks of gas and dust. Without any cleaning going on, the dust will spread all over the disk. So, what about the empty regions in this ALMA image of a young star? ALMA detected the millimeter waves of

Baby stars blow away their nursery

Human babies can scream and cry, but they’re not strong enough to tear down their own cot, let alone the nursery where they’re born. With baby stars, however, it’s different. Astronomers have discovered a stellar nursery that’s partly blown apart by its new inhabitants. Apparently, the birth of a star can be a very explosive event. Stars are usually born

Introducing DeeDee, the Distant Dwarf

You may remember that Pluto is now classed as something called a “Dwarf Planet”. As well as Pluto, there are four other dwarf planets in our Solar System: Ceres, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris. Plus, there may be a new member joining the family very soon – an object nicknamed ‘DeeDee’. But what is a dwarf planet? Dwarf planets are small

Nobody knows how life got going here on Earth. But a new ALMA discovery may help solve this riddle. ALMA studied a group of newborn stars. They are surrounded by cocoons of gas and dust – the material from which they formed. These young ‘proto-stars’ are very much like our own Sun when it was still a baby star. Five

When our Milky Way galaxy was still young, billions of years ago, it was smaller and more chaotic than it is now. It also contained huge amounts of cold molecular gas – the stuff that stars are born from. At least, that’s the conclusion that astronomers draw from new ALMA observations. Of course, ALMA cannot see what the Milky Way

A thermostat is a device that can regulate the temperature in your living room. If it becomes too cold, the thermostat fires up the central heating. If it becomes too hot, the heating is shut down. Now, using ALMA, astronomers have discovered something like a cosmic thermostat in a distant galaxy. If the gas in a galaxy is very cold,

Planets form in a disk that contains alcohol

Astronomers have found alcohol in a planet-forming disk. It’s not the regular form of alcohol that makes you drunk. Instead, it’s methyl alcohol, or methanol. Moreover, the methanol that has been found is not in the form of a liquid. Instead, it’s a gas. Methanol consists of rather large molecules. Each methanol molecule has one atom of carbon (C), four

Planet Earth is surrounded by an atmosphere – a thin layer of gas. Some other planets, and most stars, also have atmospheres. In many cases, they’re much more extended than the atmosphere of Earth. ALMA has now discovered two young galaxies that really take the biscuit: their ‘atmospheres’ extend for tens of thousands of light-years beyond their visible edges. By