Skip to main content
Email Print Share

Pebble-size particles may kick start planet formation

Radio/optical composite of Orion Molecular Cloud Complex featuring a dust-rich, star-forming filament


A radio/optical composite of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex, which includes the Orion Nebula (bottom), featuring a dust-rich, star-forming filament called OMC-2/3. Orange: Green Bank Telescope data.

More about this image
Astronomers using the National Science Foundationís (NSF) Green Bank Telescope have discovered that filaments of star-forming gas near the Orion Nebula may be brimming with pebble-size particles--planetary building blocks 100 to 1,000 times larger than the dust grains typically found around protostars. If confirmed, these dense ribbons of rocky material may well represent a new, mid-size class of interstellar particles that could help jump-start planet formation. Though incredibly small compared to even the most modest of asteroids, dust grains on the order of a few millimeters to a centimeter are incredibly large for such young star-forming regions.


To learn more about this research, see the National Radio Astronomy Observatory news story Orion Rocks! Pebble-Size Particles May Jump-Start Planet Formation. (Date image taken: Unknown; date originally posted to NSF Multimedia Gallery: March 24, 2017)

Credit: S. Schnee, et al.; B. Saxton, B. Kent (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

General Restrictions:
Images and other media in the National Science Foundation Multimedia Gallery are available for use in print and electronic material by NSF employees, members of the media, university staff, teachers and the general public. All media in the gallery are intended for personal, educational and nonprofit/non-commercial use only.

Images credited to the National Science Foundation, a federal agency, are in the public domain. The images were created by employees of the United States Government as part of their official duties or prepared by contractors as "works for hire" for NSF. You may freely use NSF-credited images and, at your discretion, credit NSF with a "Courtesy: National Science Foundation" notation. Additional information about general usage can be found in Conditions.

Also Available:
Download the high-resolution JPG version of the image. (292.6 KB)

Use your mouse to right-click (Mac users may need to Ctrl-click) the link above and choose the option that will save the file or target to your computer.