Birth of a Planet Spotted for First Time by Scientists

05 July, 2018, 20:25 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • The planet known as PDS 70b was discovered by the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile and its planet-finding instrument SPHERE

The image shows PDS 70b as a bright yellowish blob near its host star, PDS 70, which is obscured by a black disk known as a coronagraph that astronomers use to keep a star's bright light from washing out much dimmer planets. Of course, the center isn't naturally this dark.

The picture was made possible by the presence of a coronagraph, a mask blocking the blinding central star's light.

Usually, the disk of gas and dust disappears when a star is roughly 10 million years old, they said. However, despite years of searching, astronomers have so-far failed to directly image a planet forming within one of these hot and chaotic disks.

The planet was caught by SPHERE, the planet-hunting instrument on the ESO's Very Large Telescope, according to ESO.

The discovery, detailed in a paper in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, could yield a ton of new knowledge for scientists.

Miriam Kepler of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany said hints of baby planets have been detected before, but astronomers were not sure whether those observations might simply be features in the swirling dust.

Because this planet is a gas giant just like Jupiter is, monitoring its growth could reveal more about how quickly Jupiter formed alongside Earth. Thomas Henning, director at the Max Planck Institute and leader of the teams, summarised the scientific adventure: "After more than a decade of enormous efforts to build this hi-tech machine, now Sphere enables us to reap the harvest with the discovery of baby planets".


"This is the first time we've been able to see a planet embedded in a gas disk around a young star", Heather Knutson, a professor of planetary science at Caltech in Pasadena, California, told MACH in an email.

PDS 70 b is believed to take about 120 Earth years to make a full orbit, and has surface temperatures of more than 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, the study also said.

The planet was given the creative name of PDS 70B and it is quite large, about two or three times bigger than Jupiter in fact.

Although the planet looks close to its star in the image, it's 1,864,113,576 miles away. This is the rough equivalent to the distance between them Uranus and the sun.

Directly imaging the planet is a game-changer.

On analysis, it was found that the baby gaseous planet has a hole in the centre with a disc.

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