Published: Thu, July 05, 2018
Science | By Joan Schultz

The First Image of a Baby Planet Captured by Astronomers Recently

The First Image of a Baby Planet Captured by Astronomers Recently

With SPHERE (which stands for Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet Research), the astronomers could see young "features" in the star system of the young planet.

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

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.

The picture shows the planet PDS 70b makes its way through the disc of matter surrounding a young star PDS 70 in Centaurus constellation of 370 light years from Earth.

The brightness of the planet has been measured at different wavelengths by the astronomers to get detailed information about the properties of the planet.

The newborn sits within a 5.4 million-year-old solar system, orbiting a star called PDS 70. At this point, it's already 1,300 times larger than Earth. It takes the planet 120 years to orbit the star, which fits with astronomers' predictions that gas giants would need to form quite far from their stars. It is located roughly 1.8 billion miles from the central star, roughly equivalent to the distance between Uranus and the Sun.

In the featured photo, the dark region is actually the effect of a coronagraph, which masks the extremely bright light emanating from the star. Scientists say that according to the theory, planets are formed from particles that collide with each other.

PDS 70's planetary companion has sculpted a transition disc - a protoplanetary disc with a giant "hole" in the centre. However, it's never been proven.

"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", said Miriam Keppler, who lead the team, in an ESO statement.

The picture clearly reveals PDS 70's sculpted transition disc, an inner gap stipulated by scientists for decades as being the byproduct of disc-planet interactions.

"The results give us a new window onto the complex and poorly-understood early stages of planetary evolution", said Dr André Müller, leader of the second team to investigate the young planet.

Behold: this is the first confirmed image of a planet being born.

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