This spectacular image from the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope in Chile shows the dusty disc around the young star IM Lupi in finer detail than ever before.
SPHERE allows astronomers to suppress the brilliant light of nearby stars in order to obtain a better view of the regions surrounding them. In the image above, the star itself is hidden inside grey circle at the centre, leaving only the disc remaining.
SPHERE’s primary task is to discover and study giant exoplanets orbiting nearby stars using direct imaging. But the instrument is also one of the best tools in existence to obtain images of the discs around young stars — regions where planets may be forming. Studying such discs is critical to investigating the link between disc properties and the formation and presence of planets.
This image is one of many recently released by ESO.