Science

See how a planet is born

See how a planet is born”

An global team of astronomers has released the first image ever captured of a planet being born in deep space.

Astronomers took the image of the newborn planet with the Very Large Telescope, which is actually an array of four observatories in the high Atacama desert of northern Chile.

Miriam Kepler of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany said hints of baby planets have been detected before, but astronomers were not sure whether those observations might simply be features in the swirling dust. The planet is much hotter than anything in our solar system, too, with a surface temperature of around 1,000 degrees Celsius. What makes this discovery so interesting is that it's the first time that scientists have managed to spot such a young planet with utter certainty. The planet is a gas giant with a mass greater than Jupiter and is about as far from its star as Uranus is from our sun.

Young dwarf star PDS 70 is less than 10 million years old, and its planetary companion is thought to be between five and six million years old. A second team, involving numerous same astronomers as the discovery team, including Keppler, has in the past months followed up the initial observations to investigate PDS 70's fledgling planetary companion in more detail.

This image shows the sky around the faint orange dwarf star PDS 70 (in the middle of the image).

SPHERE also allowed the scientists to study many of PDS 70b's properties by "measuring the brightness of planet at different wavelengths".

The planet can be seen just right of center inside the disk (the very bright blur). One astronomical unit is the distance between the sun and Earth, or almost 93 million miles.

Researchers only have our own Solar System on which to build this theory, so being able to visualise planets like PDS 70b in the early stages will help astronomers to understand more about this process.

"We have never seen a convincing case of a planet around a young star to guide our understanding of planet formation", Thomas Henning, a lead author of the connected paper about PDS 70b, told The Outline in an email. The data suggest that the planet's atmosphere is cloudy.



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