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

ALMA helps to take black hole snapshot

Have you ever seen a black hole? Impossible, you’d probably say. After all, a black hole doesn’t emit any light – that’s why it’s called black. So there’s nothing to see, right? Still, astronomers hope to take the first ‘photo’ of the giant black hole in the center of our Milky Way galaxy. And ALMA will play an important role

Life is based on carbon chemistry. Without carbon, there would be no plants, animals, or people. Because carbon is so important for biology, all molecules that carry carbon atoms are called organic molecules. Simple organic molecules, like carbon monoxide (CO) and methane (CH4), are the very first building blocks of living organisms. Organic molecules have been found in the space

Stars are born from large clouds of cold gas. It’s called molecular gas, since it is composed not of single atoms, but of molecules like H2 (two hydrogen atoms strung together) and carbon monoxide (CO, a molecule consisting of one atom of carbon and one of oxygen). Molecular hydrogen is hard to detect, but carbon monoxide molecules emit radiation at

ALMA has helped to solve a fifteen-year-old astronomical riddle. Observations with the 66-dish observatory have revealed the true nature of a huge mysterious object in the distant universe. The object is known as LAB-1. LAB stands for Lyman Alpha Blob. It’s a huge smudge of light in the night sky, about three times as large as our own Milky Way

Have you ever watched an ice skater performing a pirouette? As she draws in her arms, she automatically starts to rotate much faster. In fact, every rotating object that gets smaller will speed up its spin rate – it’s a law of nature. So the same is also true for clouds of gas and dust that contract to form new

Astronomers know how planets like our own Earth were born. When the Sun was young, it was surrounded by a flat, rotating disk of gas and dust. Dust particles, pebbles, and small rocks in this protoplanetary disk slowly clumped together to form Earth-like planets. But the origin of giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn is not so clear. These planets