World's first images of a newborn planet reveal birth of alien world

World's first images of a newborn planet reveal birth of alien world

Despite the fact that it can take ages for a planet to fully form, actually capturing the process of planet formation has proven to be incredibly hard.

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 planet is thought to be about 370 light years from Earth.

The image was produced by an advanced piece of equipment within the Very Large Telescope array at the European Southern Observatory's facility in northern Chile. The young planet is absolutely scorching, with a surface temperature topping 1,000 degrees Celsius.

"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", lead researcher Miriam Keppler said in a statement released with the new image.

PDS 70b is approximately 1.86 billion miles (roughly 3 billion kilometers, or the same distance from Uranus to the Sun) away from the star it orbits, a young dwarf star named PDS 70.

Astronomers known that planets form from solar clouds which stars leave behind when they come into a being, but until now, the details surrounding the phenomena have been mysterious.

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.

SPHERE was able to measure the planet's brightness at different wavelengths, which enabled the researchers to determine the properties of its atmosphere.

The planet can be seen just right of center inside the disk (the very bright blur).

Planets emerge in the swirling disks of dust and gas that race around stars for the first 10 million years of their lives. Without the mask, the light from planet would be overhwhelmed by PDS 70.

"Keppler's results give us a new window onto the complex and poorly-understood early stages of planetary evolution".

In the images, the newborn planet rips through the material surrounding the star.

"After more than a decade of enormous efforts to build this high-tech machine, now SPHERE enables us to reap the harvest with the discovery of baby planets!" The theory was that it was created by the interaction between the formation of a new planet and the disc itself.

The image is the first confirmed direct observation of such a young exoplanet, discovery team members said.



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