First image of baby planet being formed captured

First image of baby planet being formed captured

Until now, it had proven impossible to capture the birth of a planet as it is usually obscured by dust, but now they've finally managed to get shots of a planet breaking out of a "disc" from which it is formed.

Scientists know that young planets are forming in our Milky Way, and they've seen hints of them before, says Miriam Keppler, who led a team on the project at the Max Planck Institute. The data from SPHERE also allowed the team to measure the planet's brightness over different wavelengths - based on which they estimated the properties of its atmosphere. It is found approximately three billion kilometers from the central star, generally proportionate to the separation amongst Uranus and the Sun. In the image, the planet is shown to the right of the dark center of the image as a bright point, said astronomers.

In a remarkable image, the young planet is clearly visible, standing out as a distinctive bright spot just to the right of PDS 70, which is blocked out by a mask.

Another analysis estimated that the almost 1,100-degree-Celsius planet is somewhere between two and 17 times the mass of Jupiter, with a radius around 1.4 to 3.7 times Jupiter's.

Added to this is a surface temperature of roughly 1 000 degrees celsius, which makes it hotter than any planet in our solar system, as well as being an anomaly considering how far away it is from its nearest star.

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"This discovery provides us with an unprecedented opportunity to test theoretical models of planet formation", said André Müller, a member of the research team.

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. It takes the planet 120 years to orbit the star, which fits with astronomers' predictions that gas giants would need to form quite far from their stars. Not only have they detected the planet, but they've also taken a direct image of it.

The observation was made as part of two survey programs, SHINE and DISK, both of which are using the SPHERE instrument to study young stars.

An alien world that's just beginning to form was spotted by one of the most powerful planet-hunting telescopes in the world inside the protoplanetary disk of a young star. Thomas Henning, director at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and leader of the teams, said in a statement.

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