Mommy, where do baby planets come from? There's no storks, birds, bees, or romantic dinners for two involved in the answer to that question - regardless of size, planets are all formed in pretty much the same way: through the aggregation of material within the disk of dust and gas surrounding a young star. While how long it actually takes and just what sort of planets are most likely to form where are still topics of discussion among astronomers, the birth process of a planet is fairly well understood.
And this may be the very first image of it actually happening.
PICTURES: Exquisite Exoplanetary Art
Acquired by the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT), the infrared image above (right) shows a portion of the disk of gas and dust around the star HD100546, located 335 light-years away in the constellation Musca. By physically blocking out the light from the star itself by means of an opaque screen - seen along the left side of the image - the light from the protoplanetary disk around HD 100546 can be seen, revealing a large bright clump that's thought to be a planet in the process of formation.