Science

First confirmed image of newborn planet caught forming by the ESO

First confirmed image of newborn planet caught forming by the ESO

It is found approximately three billion kilometers from the central star, generally proportionate to the separation amongst Uranus and the Sun.

Researchers led by a group at the Max Plank Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, are spying on a baby planet.

You can see the young planet, named PDS 70b, as a bright ball to the right of the center of the photograph above.

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

The dark area in the center of the image is the result of applying the coronagraph mask, which blocks light from the Central star and allows astronomers to register up a much weaker image of the disk and planetary system component. This is at least a few times the mass of Jupiter, the largest gas giant in our solar system, and well above the highest temperature recorded on any planet in our solar system. It has a surface temperature of around 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 degrees Celsius) and takes 120 years to orbit its host star.

More: Could humans live on Mars?




'We needed to observe a planet in a young star's disc to really understand the processes behind planet formation.

Keppler led the discovery of the baby exoplanet, dubbed PDS 70b, which has been described in a paper published today in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics. By carefully parsing the data underlying the new imagery, astronomers are able to determine some of the planet's chemical and physical properties.

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.

"The special thing about this new planet is that we can directly image it, so the ones by Kepler, for example, they were derived by indirect techniques", she said "In this case we now have a direct image [of the planet] in its "birthplace", which is the circumstellar disc".

'The problem is that until now, most of these planet candidates could just have been features in the disc'. This creates images of a certain planet taken from slightly different angles and at different points in the stellar halo, giving the impression that it's slowly rotating or moving about.

"After ten years of developing new powerful astronomical instruments such as SPHERE, this discovery shows us that we are finally able to find and study planets at the time of their formation", MPIA director Thomas Henning said. As a effect, the planet appears to slowly rotate, changing its location on the image with respect to the stellar halo.


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