ALMA reveals carbon-rich, organic birth environments of planets

An international collaboration of scientists using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) has completed the most extensive chemical composition mapping of the protoplanetary disks around five nearby young stars at high resolution, producing images that capture the molecular composition associated with planetary births, and a roadmap for future studies of the makeup of planet- and comet-forming regions. The new study unlocks clues about the role of molecules in planetary system formation, and whether these young planetary systems in the making have what it takes to host life. The results of the program, appropriately called MAPS, or Molecules with ALMA at Planet-forming Scales, will appear in an upcoming 20-paper special edition of the Astrophysical Journal Supplement series.