New images from the Hubble Space Telescope capture infant solar systems and 'embryonic' planetary systems located in the Orion Nebula.
These images are the product of a Hubble survey dedicated to investigating planet and star formation, which has identified 42 "planetary systems in the making."
A press release on the European homepage for the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope explains the researchers' findings, and explains what was captured in the images:
As newborn stars emerge from the nebula's mixture of gas and dust, protoplanetary discs, also known as proplyds, form around them: the centre of the spinning disc heats up and becomes a new star, but remnants around the outskirts of the disc attract other bits of dust and clump together. Proplyds are thought to be young planetary systems in the making.
Although it's rare to capture these proplyds, the high resolution and sensitivity of the Hubble telescope, as well as the Orion Nebula's proximity to earth, made it possible for researchers to obtain pictures of these emerging planetary systems.
See photos of the "young and forming" stars snapped by the Hubble telescope's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) in the slideshow below.
NASA/ESA descriptions of the proplyds compare the "smudges" to unusual forms, describing them as "space jellyfish", a "head with a ponytail," "tadpoles," and other unlikely objects.