Published: Tue, July 03, 2018
Sci-tech | By Brandy Patterson

Scientists Capture First Ever Confirmed Image of a Planet Being Born

Scientists Capture First Ever Confirmed Image of a Planet Being Born

But it has never been seen before - until now.

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 image shows a bright blob, the nascent planet, moving through the dust and gas surrounding a young star that is known to scientists as PDS70.

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.

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The team of astronomers which was led by a group at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany, captured the spectacular snapshot of planetary formation around the young dwarf star PDS 70 by using the SPHERE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) - one of the most powerful planet-hunting instruments in existence. 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 discovery of PDS 70b is a significant event for astronomers, and subsequent teams of researchers are already following up on the initial research.

"The problem is that until now, most of these planet candidates could just have been features in the disc". Currently, PDS 70d is busy carving a path through the planet-forming material surrounding the young star, the researchers note, making it instantly stand out. That blob is a coronagraph - a mask that researchers apply directly onto the star, lest its light blocks out everything else in the image. The analysis shows that PDS 70b is a giant gas planet with a mass a few times that of Jupiter. The planet is blanketed in thick clouds, the team explained, and its surface is now revolving around a crisp 1000°C (1832°F), which is much hotter than any planet in the Solar System.

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

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. But in a recent feat, scientists used an instrument called Sphere to capture it at last - a great win after they had started looking for a possible baby planet in 2012.

'By determining the planet's atmospheric and physical properties, the astronomers are able to test theoretical models of planet formation'.

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