For the first time, astronomers have observed a planet being born. They’ve also shared the historic photo, the first of its kind, of the baby planet.
The new photo shows a young planet taking shape in the disk of gas and dust surrounding a young star.
“These disks around young stars are the birthplaces of planets, but so far only a handful of observations have detected hints of baby planets in them,” discovery leader Miriam Keppler, of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, said in a statement. “The problem is that, until now, most of these planet candidates could just have been features in the disk.”
Astronomers have observed the new planet, known as PDS 70b, with the help of the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope in Chile and its planet-finding instrument, known as SPHERE.
SPHERE is currently one of the most powerful planet-finders.
About the PDS 70b
Researchers suggest the celestial object is two to three times larger than Jupiter and is much hotter than any planet in our solar system. Its’ surface temperature is approximately 1000°C.
It’s parent star, PDS 70, is about 5.4 million years old and lies 370 light-years from Earth. PDS 70b lies 1.86 billion miles away from its star, about as far as Uranus is from the sun.
Researchers detailed the discovery of PDS 70b, and its measured and inferred characteristics in two sets of studies. Both the studies were published online today (July 2) in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
“Keppler’s results give us a new window onto the complex and poorly understood early stages of planetary evolution,” André Müller, lead author of the second study, said in the same statement.
Thumbnail image: This spectacular image from the SPHERE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope is the first clear image of a planet, forming around the dwarf star PDS 70. The image shows the planet as a bright point to the right of the center. The planet is blacked out by the coronagraph mask used to block the blinding light of the central star. Credit: ESO/A. Müller et al.