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Astronomers Capture Images of 62 Newly-Forming Planetary Systems

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Astronomers utilizing the Very Large Telescope in Chile have recently completed a monumental survey aimed at identifying planetary systems in their early stages of formation. Through this survey, they have successfully identified 62 dusty regions surrounding young stars, providing direct imaging of the swirling gas and dust that indicate the presence of newly forming planets.

The diversity observed in the types of exoplanets discovered mirrors the variety seen in these planetary systems, revealing a wide range of sizes and shapes in the protoplanetary disks.

In a series of three new papers, researchers have detailed their findings after imaging 86 young stars, 62 of which were found to have distinct star-forming regions encircling them. This study not only offers a rich dataset but also provides unique insights into the processes governing planet formation across different sectors of our galaxy.

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Planet-forming discs around young stars and their location within the gas-rich cloud of Taurus, roughly 600 light-years from Earth. The background image shows an infrared view of Taurus captured by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite. Credit: ESO/A.Garufi et al.; IRAS

Christian Ginski, lead author of one of the papers, remarked on the presence of huge spiral arms in some discs, likely influenced by the gravitational interactions of orbiting planets. Antonio Garufi, lead author on another paper, noted the diverse features observed in these systems, including rings, cavities, and intriguingly smooth surfaces amidst active environments.

With a total of 5595 confirmed exoplanets and numerous candidates awaiting confirmation, the exploration of planetary systems continues to unveil striking differences from our own Solar System. The collaborative efforts of international astronomers have focused on observing the dust- and gas-rich discs encircling young stars, where the initial stages of planet formation occur.

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Planet-forming discs around young stars and their location within the gas-rich cloud of Orion, roughly 1600 light-years from Earth. The background image shows an infrared view of Orion captured by the Infrared Astronomical Satellite. Credit: ESO/P.-G. Valegård et al.; IRAS

The observations focused on 86 stars in the Taurus, Chamaeleon I, and Orion star-forming regions, showcasing varying levels of disk presence around the stars. Using advanced instruments like SPHERE and X-shooter on ESO’s VLT, astronomers successfully imaged discs around stars with low masses, shedding light on otherwise faint structures. ALMA, located in Chile, provided additional data on the dust content surrounding some of the stars.

Notably, the team found significant differences in the presence of large planet-forming discs among stars in multi-star systems, suggesting potential influences from companions. Uneven features in the discs hint at the presence of massive embedded planets, causing warp and misalignment.

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Planet-forming discs around young stars and their location within the gas-rich cloud of Chamaeleon I, roughly 600 light-years from Earth. The stunning images of the discs were captured using the Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch (SPHERE) instrument mounted on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). The background image shows an infrared view of Chamaeleon I captured by the Herschel Space Observatory. Credit: ESO/C. Ginski et al.; ESA/Herschel

Continued analysis of the gathered data promises further revelations, as astronomers delve deeper into the intricacies of planet formation processes. The captivating imagery and informative data obtained from this survey stand as invaluable resources in unraveling the mysteries surrounding the birth of planets and the potential for life in our own Solar System.

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Per-Gunnar Valegård, leading the study on Orion, poetically reflects on the beauty inherent in the processes that set the stage for planetary and biological evolution within our cosmic neighborhood.

Further resources:
ESO press release 
Papers on ChamaeleonTaurusOrion

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Black couple overcomes racism to rent to Chinese family, who show gratitude by paying rent.

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Decades ago, in the early 1900s, racism and discriminatory housing practices plagued the town of Coronado, barring many individuals from living in certain neighborhoods based on their race. In the midst of this oppressive era, an inspiring story of resilience and generosity unfolded between two families — the Thompsons, a Black couple, and the Dongs, a Chinese family.

Gus and Emma Thompson, who were among the few Black families to own property in Coronado before racial restrictions took hold, defied the norms of the time by renting their house to the Dong family. Lloyd Dong Sr., a Chinese immigrant, and his wife found solace in the Thompsons’ willingness to offer them a place to call home despite the racist barriers they faced.

Fast forward 85 years later, the sons of Lloyd Dong Sr., Ron Dong, and Lloyd Dong Jr., have decided to pay forward the kindness shown to their family by donating $5 million from the sale of the house they eventually owned to San Diego State University’s Black Resource Center. This generous gift will help expand scholarships for Black students and fund renovations at the center, creating a lasting impact on the community.

Exterior view of a single-story home

The Dongs’ family house in Coronado, originally the home of the Thompsons.

(Courtesy of Janice Dong)

This heartwarming tale of intergenerational gratitude highlights the resilience and spirit of unity that transcends racial boundaries. Brandon Gamble, the director of the Black Resource Center, expressed the profound impact of this donation on the community, emphasizing the importance of stories that challenge racism and foster a sense of camaraderie.

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Reflecting on the legacy of his father and the Thompsons, Ron Dong shared, “That was the big plus for our family, because it has made all the difference for us.” The intertwined histories of the Thompson and Dong families serve as a testament to the power of empathy and solidarity in the face of adversity.

Gus Thompson’s journey from slavery to becoming a respected community leader in Coronado, coupled with Emma Thompson’s advocacy for civil rights, exemplifies the resilience and determination of marginalized communities to thrive in the face of oppression.

Gus Thompson in 1947.

Gus Thompson in 1947.

(Norman Baynard Collection / San Diego History Center)

The legacy of allyship and support exemplified by the Thompsons extends to their willingness to assist Asian Americans facing similar discriminatory practices. This act of solidarity echoes the sentiment that in times of oppression, helping others regardless of race is not just a gesture but a necessity.

As the Dong family embraced their new home in Coronado, overcoming discrimination and forging their path to homeownership, they carried forward the spirit of resilience and unity shown to them by the Thompsons. The bond between these two families serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration in a society marred with division and prejudice.

The Hotel del Coronado, a Victorian-style beach resort outside San Diego, and tent city on the beach, 1908.

The Hotel del Coronado, a Victorian-style beach resort outside San Diego, and a tent city on the beach, 1908.

(Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images)

The resilience and determination displayed by the Dong family in the face of discrimination, coupled with their unwavering commitment to education and community upliftment, exemplify the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. The decision to give back to the community through education underscores the transformative power of generosity and empathy in creating a more inclusive and equitable society.

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As the Dongs’ generous donation paves the way for future generations to access educational opportunities and resources, their story serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration for all who strive to overcome adversity and champion unity in the face of division.

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