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The Big Picture: giving birth to a solar system

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While one hot topic regarding outer space lately is a work of science fiction, here's some fact to switch that up -- in case comets aren't really your bag. What you see above is the first result of the Alma telescope array set up in its near-final form, capturing the beginnings of a solar system that could be much like our own given enough time. HL Tauri is a star some 450 light years away that's surrounded by the dusty disc-shaped remains of star-birth, is around a million years old and already forming planets by the looks of things. As ESO reports, scientists say that this sole image will "revolutionize theories of planetary formation" because it means planets may actually, well, form, faster than previously expected. Even better? This image might give us a clearer idea of what our own solar system looked like in its early days.

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