A Ringside Seat to the Formation of Planets
Dr. Dana Backman (SETI Institute and Astronomical Society of the Pacific)
Listen (mp3 file, 19.8 MB)
Astronomers have discovered dusty “doughnuts” of cosmic raw material around many younger stars. In some cases, astronomers can see tantalizing hints in the rings that planets may be forming or may already have formed from this material. Dr. Backman explains how new kinds of telescopes and observations are making it possible for us to detect the birth process of planets around nearby stars. He concludes by previewing future observations of these intriguing dusty rings with upcoming telescopes, particularly the SOFIA (Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy) Project in which NASA has outfitted a 747 plane with a telescope that can observe heat-rays from distant objects.