Why This 5.4-Million-Year-Old Planet Is Still a Baby

05 July, 2018, 05:08 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • An artist's concept of a dusty planet-forming disk around a star.       NASA  JPL-Caltech

The planet is seen as the glowing spot to the right of the black circle, which was caused by scientists using a coronagraph to blot out the light from the star at the center of the frame - without the coronagraph, the star's blinding light would have prevented scientists from imaging the fainter disc and baby planet surrounding it.

"The problem is that until now, most of these planet candidates could just have been features in the disc". This is at least a few times the mass of Jupiter, the largest gas giant in our solar system, and well above the highest temperature recorded on any planet in our solar system.

The astronomers captured a shot of the now-internet-famous baby using the SPHERE planet-hunting instrument on the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope.; our sun, for example, is roughly 4.5 billion years old. SHINE aims to image 600 young nearby stars while DISK targets known, young planetary systems and their circumstellar discs.

Starsand planets tend to form in clouds of dust and gas, and as the star gets older, the dust and gas dissipate.

'And while we look at tiny, pristine meteorites in the lab at the Museum, astronomers are examining much bigger things outside the lab: young stars and planets like the one in this photo. The planet was found in a gap in this disk, which means it is close to where it was born and still growing by accumulating material from the disk.

Furthermore, in a second study, also published online yesterday in Astronomy & Astrophysics, a separate group of researchers estimated the characteristics of the newborn planet, dubbed PDS 70b.


"These discs around young stars are the birthplaces of planets, but so far only a handful of observations have detected hints of baby planets in them".

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

It is one of the clearest images ever captured of a young planet in a disc. But unlike Jupiter, whose temperature is a chilly minus-163 degrees Fahrenheit or so, this planet is far hotter than any planet in our solar system, Meyer said, with a temperature of around 1,340 to 2,420 degrees.

They also deduced that it has a cloudy atmosphere. It is located roughly 1.8 billion miles from the central star, roughly equivalent to the distance between Uranus and the Sun.

"It will probably still take several millions of years until the planet stops collecting surrounding gas and dust", the astronomers added.

Prof Thomas Henning, a director at MPIA, says, 'After ten years of developing new powerful astronomical instruments such as SPHERE, this discovery shows us that we are finally able to find and study planets at the time of their formation.

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