Astronomers catch new planet in the process of forming

Astronomers catch new planet in the process of forming

Astronomers catch new planet in the process of forming

Scientists have for the first time witnessed the birth of a planet, a huge gas giant many times the size of Jupiter, swirling into existence 370 light years from Earth.

Astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy used a very large telescope in the Atacama Desert in Chile called the Very Large Telescope (honestly) provided by the European Southern Observatory - the European Space Agency's base in the Southern Hemisphere.

The planet, "PDS 70b" is a huge body of gas, with several times more mass than Jupiter, in a lonely rotation 3 billion miles from the star it rotates. The surface temperature is now a steamy 1000 degrees Celsius (1832 degrees F). In the image provided by ESO (seen above), the planet is seen as a bright mass to the right of its host star which has been blacked out by a mask that allows the surrounding detail to be seen.

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"The problem is that until now, most of these planet candidates could just have been features in the disc", explained Dr Keppler, who lead the team behind the discovery of the planet.

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. According to Science Alert, when astronomers discovered that there was a gap in PDS 70's disc back in 2012, they suspected that a forming planet was the cause and made a decision to focus their efforts to find it.

The astronomy team that captured the new image was led a group from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany.

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

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

All this data helps flesh out our understanding of the early stages of planetary evolution - which are quite complex and, up to now, "poorly-understood", according to André Müller, leader of the second team to investigate the young planet. The SPHERE device - which stands for Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch instrument - studies exoplanets and discs around nearby stars using a technique known as high-contrast imaging. This is the first time they've actually been able to detect a separate baby planet.

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

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