Published: Tue, July 03, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Scientists capture first ever image of newborn planet

According to ESO, the observations - captured by SPHERE, VLT's planet-hunting instrument - included the "first confirmed image of a planet caught in the act of forming in the dusty disc surrounding a young star".

A stunning new image published by the European Southern Observatory in Chile has shed new light on how planets are born.

The planet stands out clearly in the image, visible as a bright point to the right of the blackened centre.

Miriam Kepler of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany said hints of baby planets have been detected before, but astronomers weren't sure whether those observations might simply be features in the swirling dust.

The research reveals that PDS 70b is a giant, with a mass "a few times that of Jupiter". The theory was that it was created by the interaction between the formation of a new planet and the disc itself.

Capturing a planet's birth is exceptionally hard because it's often too far away to see on a telescope. "The problem is that, until now, most of these planet candidates could just have been features in the disk".

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The image was documented by SPHERE, an instrument at the VLT that's built to identify exoplanets.

The discovery of PDS 70b is a significant event for astronomers, and subsequent teams of researchers are already following up on the initial research. Without this mask, the faint light from the planet would be utterly overwhelmed by the intense brightness of PDS 70. Now we can see the planet for the first time.

Each journey around the dwarf star takes about 118 years. Using a powerful planet-hunting instrument on the telescope called SPHERE, an global team of scientists was able to study the newborn planet at a crucial point in its development. That's about the distance between Uranus and our Sun.

Astronomers observing circumstellar disks shredded with gaps, rings and spirals have long thought planet formation could be behind these structures. Astronomers who've studied the data believe the world is a gas giant whose atmosphere is about 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to melt lead.

They also deduced that it has a cloudy atmosphere.

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