Science

Astronomers Believe They Have First Image of Newborn Planet

Astronomers Believe They Have First Image of Newborn Planet”

The team of astronomers which was led by a group at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, captured the spectacular snapshot of planetary formation around the young dwarf star PDS 70 by using the SPHERE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) - one of the most powerful planet-hunting instruments in existence. The planet is thought to be about 370 light years from Earth.

Astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy used a very large telescope in the Atacama Desert in Chile called the Very Large Telescope (honestly) provided by the European Southern Observatory - the European Space Agency's base in the Southern Hemisphere.

The planet is called PDS 70b and scientists have determined it is a gas giant with a mass several times that of Jupiter. Its' surface temperature is approximately 1000°C, which the European Southern Observatory (ESO) said in the statement was "much hotter than any planet in our own Solar System".

'The problem is that until now, most of these planet candidates could just have been features in the disc'.

PDS 70 is forming about three billion kilometers from the central star, about the same as the distance between Uranus and the Sun, the astronomers say.

The planet, named PDS 70b, is careening through the dust cloud as it orbits its star, gathering material on its surface and slowly but surely maturing into what will one day be a fully-formed world.

Picking out the faint planet from the brilliant light of its host star was a challenge for the team.

Known in full as Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch, SPHERE made the first robust detection of a newborn planet by measuring the different wavelengths of light through its atmosphere. "We hope that there is more to come, and the planet will certainly be the target for many more studies".

The discovery by two teams of researchers is detailed in two papers published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics on Monday. "We needed to observe a planet in a young star's disc to really understand the processes behind planet formation".

[Scientists] will be able to explore the atmospheric and physical properties and compare them with how planets are expected to form.

All this data helps flesh out our understanding of the early stages of planetary evolution - which are quite complex and, up to now, "poorly-understood", according to André Müller, leader of the second team to investigate the young planet.



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