Sir Halley’s comet buzzed our solar system in September — it’s back in November this year — so it’s a good time to look at what came before. In particular, it’s a good time to look to how our universe was formed. Halley’s Comet is one of the most-studied celestial objects in the universe, and astronomers observe it from Earth not to build our understanding of the cosmos, but simply to see it fly by.
In part, our celestial neighbor is in our line of sight because it was shaped like a primeval flower. The flowers of comets provide a revealing portrait of the earliest days of the solar system. So, this month, the Hubble Space Telescope took an unprecedented look at the tiny planets around this star, OGLE-664-313.
Around 70,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe was still in its infancy, filling a universe filled with dust and fog. On a hot spot in space, scientists found a cluster of stars that orbited, but did not form, a tiny star, “flying by” each other. The star may have existed only for a short time and in a very violent period, “very early” in the evolution of the cosmos. And the most-probable culprit: the Tauri star. This hot star is thought to be only one hundredth of a solar-system-wide object — it’s small, it’s young, and it only burned a small fraction of its lifetime. And perhaps, given the way that Hubble observed it, this super-hot star was created in an enormously violent explosion.
The satellite orbiting Hubble takes images of the cosmos in unprecedented detail and sets observations aside, allowing astronomers to dig even deeper and connect the dots of our universe, not only in terms of our distant cousins, but also in ways that have long been intuitive. Once a solar-system size object has been found, astronomers can take a much closer look and make measurements that reveal insights that reveal how the universe was created.
So, while NASA has put more than a million people to work designing and building the Hubble telescope in the 1990s, there is something deeply surprising about Hubble, NASA says. It gives us a glimpse into a mysterious and elusive time, a time before our solar system’s formation. As we await Halley’s comet to reappear in November, we may as well take a closer look at the first planets.