A newborn star buried deep inside the Orion Nebula is feeding on a giant, dusty “space hamburger,” researchers have discovered.

This astronomical sandwich is actually an accretion disk, or a cloud of gas and dust that rotates around a central point — in this case, a young protostar. Astronomers have seen these disks around stars and even black holes before, but this is the first time anyone has seen one that looks like a giant hamburger.

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, researchers found more than just the first “space hamburger” — their observations also confirmed that accretion disks can form in the earliest phase of star formation. Because disks around young stars are relatively tiny, astronomers have not been able to clearly image them in the past, the study’s authors explain in the new research paper. [Amazing Photos from the Giant ALMA Radio Telescope]

Thanks to the higher sensitivity and resolution of ALMA’s telescopes, researchers were able to detect a protostellar disk around a baby star for the first time while getting a detailed look at its structure.


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