What's the recipe for a planet?
Planets form within a "disk" of dust and gaseous material surrounding young stars, as shown in this NASA illustration.
October 20th, 2011
02:00 PM ET

What's the recipe for a planet?

A discovery announced Thursday by the European Space Agency's orbiting Herschel observatory may reveal more about what ingredients it takes to cook up a new planet.

When stars are formed, they often leave a so-called "planet-forming disk" - shaped kind of like a pizza pie - with the star located in its hot center.

Water vapor often is an ingredient of that pie, but until now, water has only been found closer to the center where temperatures are hotter.

Scientists have observed a star named TW Hydrae - located about 175 light years from Earth - which has a lot of chilly water vapor closer to the edge of its planet-forming disk.

Data suggests the presence of enough frozen water crystals to fill Earth's oceans several thousand times, says California Institute of Technology's Rachel Akeson.

Because the vapor was found at the edge of the disk - where comets and giant planets are believed to form - it supports theories that comets and asteroids first delivered water to planets - such as Earth, says Akeson.

Water can play a key role in forming new worlds because ice condenses with other materials to form the cores of gaseous planets.

Ice in the disk also may help scientists learn more about how Earth got its water. When our planet Earth was formed, its hot temperature made the presence of water impossible, experts believe. Scientists think Earth's water may have come later, probably from ice on comets or asteroids from the outer part of the solar system.

Water is one of the essential ingredients to life on Earth. This new discovery helps us to better understand how planets are formed and how water is distributed in the universe.

Launched into orbit in 2009, the Herschel Space Observatory's vantage point above Earth's atmosphere will likely allow it to find more data that will help scientists learn more about how planets are formed.

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Filed under: Discoveries • In Space
soundoff (81 Responses)
  1. Guest

    When I think about evolution,I think of when I jack off into a towel.Eventually you have to throw the towel away,and they all end up in the landfill.Im positive Im not the only person who does this,and eventually you end up with landfill after landfill full of crusty,smelly semen soaked rags.
    Someday they will blast our garbage into space,and if there is life on other planets Im sure they have already done so.
    And so you have the origin of the primordial ooze,just a bunch of discarded space jizz from extra tentacled jackoffs

    November 3, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
    • Guest

      Ive always wondered if there are entire worlds of life that have grown in the piles of jizz soaked cumrags that end up at the landfills,along with batterys,and chemicals,and assorted medical waste

      November 3, 2011 at 9:22 pm |
  2. w l jones

    Our scientic using the wrong pot when it come to new planet forming. Mic/organism over billion years form a ball of matter through heat and fusion solidfy it into what we call planet.

    November 2, 2011 at 4:01 pm |
  3. Ozzi

    Cake or death?

    October 22, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
  4. Uncle Dave

    That was a very good article. Thanks !

    October 22, 2011 at 9:46 am |
  5. erich2112x

    Initially it's about your dark energy: How far and how close the planet is to it's sun, the position of that planet among the other planets in it's solar system, It's moon(s), if any, yada yada.......also, the planet will have to have sustained a major collision in it's lifetime to get it spinning and wobbling and tilting axially. The you wait for the comets with their ice packed organic matter.

    October 22, 2011 at 9:20 am |
  6. Hadenufyet

    Given a sufficient proper mixture ratio of hydrogen and oxygen and a spark of energy , such as lightning , isn't it possible that water could be spontaneously created within the atmosphere. Just seems to me that if the earth were just continuously bombarded by comets it would have been beat to pieces .

    October 22, 2011 at 9:17 am |
    • Hadenufyet

      Or yet another possibility , since the earth is 75% water , could it not have been an iron core comet captured by the suns' gravitation?

      October 22, 2011 at 9:27 am |
      • Hadenufyet

        Correction ...earths surface covered 75% water...sry....needed my coffee..lol

        October 22, 2011 at 9:41 am |
      • snow

        and by mass comparison, water is 0.06% of the total mass of earth.. Its not much water at all on earth. it just seems o much to us in comparison to our size is all..

        October 24, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  7. james L

    Must characterize "good mass". This characterization may be difficult to prove in a lab.

    October 22, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  8. tg3ronimo

    If it is true that outer fringe collisions of asteroids, comets, and meteors help built planets, what is the story about our moon? Examine the surface profile of the moon; -literally every hills and valleys of it were the results of continuous space collisions past & present. Where are the air, water, and minerals?? Have scientists ever wonder about this?? or is our moon considered a planet already??

    October 22, 2011 at 9:04 am |
    • fluidphysics

      Our moon is considered a planet only if it has some kind of liquid core. The moon may be solid thoughout its structure, then it would be considered a planetoid

      October 22, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • somebody

      The Moon is not considered a planet because the barycenter of the Earth-Moon system lies beneath the Earth's crust. In order for the Moon to be considered a planet, the Earth and the Moon would have to orbit each other. Having a barycenter beneath the Earth's crust means that the Moon orbits the Earth.

      November 3, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  9. tenn40

    Didn't God create the heavens and the earth?

    October 22, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  10. insidious77

    Ingredients for a good planet are fresh air, clean water, plenty of natural resources, and beautiful women!

    October 22, 2011 at 6:47 am |
    • Timothy Lee

      LoL – funny, but you know the first women were fish right?

      October 22, 2011 at 8:55 am |
    • Kettle

      Only beautiful women define good huh?, if thats all we had here, doubt Earth would be anything but a boring, superficial planet.

      October 22, 2011 at 9:10 am |
      • Wha????


        October 25, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  11. Joey

    DO NOT BRING religion into space science. It's mutually exclusive. keep your jesus bible freak talk in church. this is planetary science. exit this site and google god, religion. Again... this is modern science. okay? okay? okay? okay? huh? i fricken said... OKAY? DID YOU EFFIN' FROCKEN HEAR ME! OKAY?! Jeuss effin' Christ...I had to raise my effin' voice.

    October 22, 2011 at 4:41 am |
    • The Master

      Bless you my son, I will pray for your immortal soul..... NOT!

      October 22, 2011 at 6:05 am |
      • Bryan

        pray for his soul regardless, that is after all what God would want us to do.

        October 22, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • LuisWu

      Unfortunately they won't listen. They're too wrapped up wallowing in their fairytale world. They feel like they have to indoctrinate everyone else into it as well. Trying to get them to accept modern science would be like trying to explain calculus to a goat. They're just not equipped to deal with it.

      October 22, 2011 at 6:16 am |
      • Trevor

        'Like explaining calculus to a goat' – brilliiant and it made me laugh – thanks

        October 22, 2011 at 8:47 am |
    • Arlyn

      I believe discussions here are meant to be "lively and courteous"(see below). Slamming any person's PERSONAL views does not promote the spirit of furthering knowledge by discussion.

      October 22, 2011 at 7:44 am |
    • Gumby


      October 22, 2011 at 8:18 am |
      • The Lunatic

        I bow to your wiggly appendages

        October 22, 2011 at 8:48 am |
    • Hadenufyet

      Science without religion is lame , religion without science is blind.
      Albert Einstien

      October 22, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  12. William Blake

    There is more manure on this page than on the corn fields of Kansas.

    October 22, 2011 at 4:35 am |
    • The Master

      And we thank you for your "load"....

      October 22, 2011 at 6:45 am |
  13. greyfox

    It amazes me that there are about two or three worthwhile posts to this interesting article and a host of ridiculous ones. This seems to be the norm for readership in our country. Sad.

    October 22, 2011 at 4:17 am |
    • Budman69

      Not meant in a religious way, but, A-Men brother!

      October 22, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  14. bluemax77

    You know, you can’t have any kind of practical discussion in the is country without having to deal with idiots and Jesus freaks and their die hard, uniformed, simplistic ostrich head in the sand view of the world – Can‘t we give these clowns an island to live on so that the rest of us aren’t associated with them on the global stage...It’s just too embarrassing any more...

    October 22, 2011 at 3:48 am |
  15. bluemax77

    You need God and Jesus, seven days and lots and lots of love... Well, that’s what my genius pastor told me at Sunday school – what..? Was he wrong...??

    October 22, 2011 at 3:18 am |
  16. Objective seeker of truth

    For those curious about relationship between scriptures & science, the following book may be helpful:

    The Bible, The Quran and Science by Dr. Maurice Bucaille. Also, read The Holy Quran http://www.QURAN.COM

    Quran is the only divine scripture preserved in its original language, and for over 1400 years have stood the test of time in relationship with ever evolving scientific discoveries. God says in Quran if you do not believe it is from ME, find an error in it or reproduce something similar like it? God has guaranteed to preserve His last revelation which is for the entire mankind till the end of times. Read the entire book, ask questions (find a genuine scholar), and use reason & logic. The entire universe follows and submits to the WILL OF GOD (in Arabic Muslim means any person or a created things that follows & submit to the Will of God). Our bodies, The Earth, The Universe ALL are MUSLIMS (Following & submitting to God's Law). We only have " a limited free will". According to some scholars, the free will is for "our intentions only" as our subsequent actions are "caused by" God's permission only. A deep subject only discovered through unbiased, objective, sincere and humble desire to discover the truth.

    October 22, 2011 at 3:10 am |
    • bluemax77

      Stop it !! You’re killing me....!!

      October 22, 2011 at 3:20 am |
    • Jerry

      Ah, Islam; where the Irrationality of Belief meets the Insanity of Extremism.......

      October 22, 2011 at 3:32 am |
    • Rags

      Of couse nothing has change over those 1400 years. That's why Islamists are still living in the distant past.

      October 22, 2011 at 7:56 am |
    • Gumby

      Anyone who calls himself "objective seeker of truth" is neither objective nor seeking truth. No, what we get are insane religious fanatic babblers. I am so tired of superstitious drivel. Religion is poison.

      October 22, 2011 at 8:20 am |
    • Tom Paine

      First, there are no divine scriptures, only man-made ones. But if by divine scripture you mean original religious texts, the "scripture" for Judaism, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity all still exist in their original languages (and are all older than Islam), so right out of the gate, your are not dealing in either objectivity or truth.

      October 22, 2011 at 8:45 am |
    • The Lunatic

      'god' is an idiotic idea promoted by immoral people to control and pacify the weak minded people.

      October 22, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • H. Ali Tosis

      We ARE all Muslims.....the day we decide to kill ourselves and those to whom we wish to prove our point.

      October 23, 2011 at 12:13 pm |
  17. TheBossSaid

    So what they are really saying is that the Bible is right when it says that in the beginning, the waters covered the face of the earth.

    October 21, 2011 at 3:33 am |
    • Fish

      Learn to read!

      It says the exact opposite. In the beginning, there was no water:

      "When our planet Earth was formed, its hot tempurature made the presence of water impossible, experts believe...."

      Then later water was delivered to earth (according to the theory) from asteroids and comets:

      "Because the vapor was found at the edge of the disk – where comets and giant planets are believed to form – it supports theories that comets and asteroids first delivered water to planets – such as Earth, says Akeson."

      In other words... the data says it probably happened in exactly the opposite order that the bible says.

      October 21, 2011 at 3:46 am |
      • Fish

        BTW- temperature is mis-spelled in the quote above because it was mis-spelled in the article.

        October 21, 2011 at 3:57 am |
      • Sophia Dengo

        Thanks for pointing that out. We've corrected the spelling.

        – Sophia Dengo, CNN.com

        October 21, 2011 at 1:06 pm |
      • aochs615

        Water also formed from the volcanoes The greatest percentage of gas that erupts from volcanoes is water vapor. Just ignore the Bible freaks

        October 21, 2011 at 7:36 am |
    • Nice try.

      Comedy gold.

      October 21, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Gumby

      Take your book of primitive mythology and insert it into the orifice of your choice.

      October 22, 2011 at 8:21 am |
      • H. Ali Tosis

        No!!! They have ALREADY inserted it into their orifice of choice.....their EARS!!

        October 23, 2011 at 12:15 pm |
  18. JCBLVR

    Genesis 1

    1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

    Isn't science wonderful! It has finally caught up with the Bible...

    Just saying-

    October 21, 2011 at 1:30 am |
    • Lauren

      Oh come on... Seriously? Go preach somewhere else.

      October 21, 2011 at 2:51 am |
    • Kat

      Um, no. The Sun was shining long before the Earth finished accreting. Previous research has shown that planetary discs exist concurrently with young stars–the light from which actually helps us find the discs. More mature stars have been found to have planets and no discs. So no "waters" and Earth concurrent with darkness. Read the article again please.

      October 21, 2011 at 2:52 am |
    • bob

      You need to catch up on some modern schooling!

      October 21, 2011 at 3:15 am |
    • Fish

      You also need to learn to read. This article says the exact opposite of what you are saying. You claim that in the beginning there was water covering the entire Earth, and there was no light. Well, the light has already been sufficiently covered by Kat.

      As for the water, the article says, "When our planet Earth was formed, its hot tempurature made the presence of water impossible, experts believe..."

      The water was delivered later: "Because the vapor was found at the edge of the disk – where comets and giant planets are believed to form – it supports theories that comets and asteroids first delivered water to planets – such as Earth, says Akeson."

      October 21, 2011 at 3:49 am |
      • Fish

        The 'you' in "You also need to learn to read" was addressed at JCBLVR, not Kat or bob. That didn't seem clear when I re-read my comment, so stating it here explicitly.

        October 21, 2011 at 3:54 am |
      • KC

        The Bible was written before any scientific studies or anything like that was ever done. Its no wonder they got a lot wrong. All they were doing was trying to explain things they didn't understand.

        October 21, 2011 at 11:46 am |
      • The Atlanteans

        No scientific study before this bible thing? Are you kidding us? THIS kind of crap is why we built the spaceships to get OFF of this ignorant planet then scuttled our islands, jerks!

        Good luck to all of you idiots that are still destroying our former home.

        October 22, 2011 at 7:29 am |
    • Nice try.

      A swing and a miss!

      October 21, 2011 at 10:17 am |
      • Veronica

        Something about "NoImpact" man struck me as funny.He is ginivg a talk.What I see, is that ginivg 'a talk' involves an audience. Each member of the audience has made an extra trip that day, a voyage, that was in addition to their normal patterns of energy usage.That voyage for all consume energy. Those that walk consume food calories, and unless they are growing their own food, all of it, they are relying at least partially on petroleum-powered transport to get the food to their distribution center or grocery store, and on the energy-consuming grocery store to keep that food fresh and available, and to discard the remnants and spoiled food.Those that drive also consume energy, either directly fossil fuel powered, or indirectly (electricity must be considered fossil fuel energy until the last coal, oil, and gas fired plants are retired), Or they flew or otherwise increased the total energy and fossil fuel use on the planet.Which, like consolidating school districts, for the same reason, strike me as about the last way to measure "no impact".The outcome might be to influence people. If "talks" were all that were needed to instigate wide-spread change, I imagine that would have been blindingly obvious by now. Most talks preach to the choir, that is the crowd is motivated for change, and looking for technical details, that some will actually use. About those that attend a talk, that aren't already embracing the topic, that might change their thinking – again, success doesn't seem to be blindingly obvious to me.No Impact Man might not be consciously choosing a career catering to people interested in the environment, but he seems to be measuring success in terms of revenue and crowd count. In one sense the wealth of today's world – money – is a direct expression of the consumption of cheap energy. With the end of cheap energy (Peak Oil), the validity of measuring wealth in dollars gets to be an interesting question. And measuring success in terms of burning oil for Earth Day seems a bit . . ironic.Chrunchy, I think you raise the caliber of the group at TreeHugger.

        August 1, 2012 at 5:57 am |
    • bluemax77

      Man, get me out of this country and away from these shockingly embarrassing, bible thumping buffoons…If I could, I’d run miles…

      October 22, 2011 at 4:08 am |
      • Mirosal

        But then you'd have to watch out for the shockingly embarrassing, koran thumping buffoons

        October 22, 2011 at 4:11 am |
      • bluemax77

        Sweden – They don’t give a crap about either. So refreshing after dealing with the BS of this country’s fruitcake citizenry...

        October 22, 2011 at 4:25 am |
    • Gumby

      "science has finally caught up with the bible"

      LMAO. Dear Jesus, please save me... from your idiotic followers.

      October 22, 2011 at 8:23 am |
  19. Nitrogen

    This is all fabricated information. The universe was made in six days by our Creator and is only 6000 years old! Haha j/k I'm just trolling. Nobody like that actually exists lol. Oh, there are people like that? Uh oh.

    October 21, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • Gumby

      Silly Nitro. If you admit your trolling, it's no fun for the rest of us!

      October 22, 2011 at 8:25 am |
  20. Kristal

    Water is Life.

    October 21, 2011 at 12:03 am |
    • Gumby

      Unless you're drowning, of course.

      October 22, 2011 at 8:25 am |
      • Amber

        HAHA!! 🙂

        October 24, 2011 at 10:28 am |
  21. fluidphysics

    Planets are formed because of thermodynamics. H2O can not be an ingredient in FORMING a planet. H2O in any phase exists only on the surface of planets and in space. H2O is a compound, which is broken under pressure down to its individual elements.

    October 20, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  22. fluidphysics

    The planet sun article has a more accurate description of the formations of the planets.

    October 20, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
  23. Steve

    Make mine veggie with extra tomato sauce.

    October 20, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • Prometheus

      Sadly...a 'Tomato' is a fruit, not a 'veggie'. Not saying you were not aware of that already, but you would be amused to find out that 10/10 people I tell that to argue with me about it when I mention it.

      October 20, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
      • Suncho

        Why would people argue with you? You're a genius and clearly right. Additionally, a carrot is a root, not a vegetable, a cabbage is a leaf, not a vegetable, and a celery is a stalk, not a vegetable. In fact, there's no such thing as a vegetable or a vegetarian.

        October 21, 2011 at 1:04 am |
      • Huh

        @Suncho: LOL. You schooled him.

        October 21, 2011 at 1:30 am |
      • David

        Sauce is a basic ingredient of pizza and not part of the toppings to which "veggie" refers.

        October 22, 2011 at 5:05 am |
  24. julianpenrod

    The article is incredibly precise, almost to the point of being deceptive or misleading. It speaks of "water", but it's unsure if it speaks of it in the form of vapor, liquid water or ice. It speaks, for example, of water only being found near the center of accretion disks where it is warmer, but the theory has water, along with all other light molecules, being impelled away from the center by heat and star winds. Also, the article mention "chilly water vapor" at the edge of the accretion disk being discussed, but then talk about "frozen water crystals", which are not the same thing. There is also a point which talks about the heat attributed to earth in the beginning as making "the presence of water impossible", which means it came from comets and ssteroids later on. But the accretion model for earth has it as being formed every step of the way by collisions withy detritus, what would be called comets and asteroids! To be sure, it could have been too hot for liquid water in builk, but that doesn't mean it couldn't exist on the body as a vapor, maybe a thick atmosphere like Venus'. The mantle of the earth is given as very hot, but it is accepted that water is carried there by subduction, forming possibly dense pockets of high pressure steam infusing rock.

    October 20, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • goodegyptian

      it could be awesome if we can make a planet INSIDE earth!!!

      October 20, 2011 at 11:08 pm |
      • Plastic Lane

        No it wouldn't be awesomw because earth would implode if that would happen. And it's not possible xD

        October 21, 2011 at 5:55 am |
      • Mirosal

        wait hold it ... you mean there's NO middle earth?? so all those years I thought Tolkein was right, and now you say he isn't?? Oh my, what am i ever to do? Guess I'll just read my bible, that will steer me in the right scientific direction!! .. wait .... what ... ??? that isn't right either?? oh no!!! Guess we'll have to trust legitimate science and physical facts instead, I suppose i can live with that 🙂

        October 22, 2011 at 3:42 am |
    • MsAttitude

      @goodegyptian...you have watched too many bad movies to even suggest this, imo.

      Could you imagine how bad it would be if American got into a war with inner-America? Or what if the ocean floors popped a leak? WHAT IF the lack of sunlight thus started the formation of true vampires? Oh my...the possibilities.

      October 21, 2011 at 12:26 pm |


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