Astronomers Capture the First Image of a Planet Being Born

First confirmed image of a newborn planet revealed

First confirmed image of a newborn planet revealed

Getting this data is not easy: it requires using the ground-based "VLT" (short for "Very Large Telescope") perched on a mountaintop in Chile and using "SPHERE", a specialized planet-finding instrument, which has been used for three years.

To the right of the black circle at the center of the image, the round bright planet can be seen within the disk of gas and dust around the young dwarf star PDS 70.

Miriam Kessler, who headed up the group that found this incredible event, told the Independent: "These discs around young stars are the birthplaces of planets, but so far only a handful of observations have detected hints of baby planets in them".

Once an object has cleared a path around itself in the disk, it is a planet. To that end, the SPHERE system incorporates a coronagraph, which obscures the blinding light of the central star and allows astronomers to detect the much fainter light bouncing off the planet and the spinning disk of coronal materials.

The planet, now known as PDS 70b, is shown orbiting within a huge spinning "protoplanetary disc" of gas and dust, which proves it is continuing to accumulate matter, and so is not yet fully formed.

The discovery by two teams of researchers is detailed in two papers published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics on Monday.


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

The footage is important because, up until this point, scientists largely believed in a dominant theory for planet formation that they were unable to confirm.

The research reveals that PDS 70b is a giant, with a mass "a few times that of Jupiter". But PDS 70b is far from an icy space outpost: its surface temperature is a scorching 1832 degrees Fahrenheit.

This discovery, scientists hope, will give us a brand new view on how planets are actually formed, and develop our understanding of the process.

Directly imaging the planet is a game-changer.

Researchers have always been on the hunt for a baby planet, and this is the first confirmed discovery of its kind. Thomas Henning, director at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and leader of the teams, said in a statement.

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