Infant version of Earth on its way?

Latest images from Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) reveal in tantalizing details the protoplanetary disk around the young, Sun-like star TW Hydrae.

The most imp[ortant part of the discovery is the protoplanetary disk is roughly at the same distance as the Earth is from the Sun.

The structure which is being formed could be an infant version of our home planet, or it could be the formation of a more massive Super Earth.

TW Hydrae has been an attractive target of study for scientists since it close to Earth at a distance of 175 light years. It is also very young and about 10 million years old. The star has a face on orientation with Earth and affords a undistorted view of the complete disk to astronomers.

According to lead scientist of the project, Sean Andrews, previous images had hinted of the interplanetary disc and the beginning of planet formation.

The latest ALMA images reveal the disk in extraordinary detail. The images show a series of concentric dusty bright rings and dark gaps and also features which suggest that an Earth-like planet is in its early stages of formation.

The star also has features which are located 3 billion to 6 billion kilometers from the central star. It is tantalizingly similar to the distances of Uranus and Pluto in our own Solar System.

These features could one-day form planets after the orbits are swept clear of dust and gas and then arranged into well-defined bands.

TW Hydrae, also known as HIP 53911 or IRAS 10594-3426, is an orange dwarf star located in the constellation Hydra, approximately 176light-years away.

The star is about 80% of the mass of the Sun and is very young – only 8 million years old. TW Hydrae happens to be the closest T Tauri star to our Solar System.