Saturday, 17 November, 2018

Astronomers Capture First Confirmed Picture of a Planet Being Born

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 Astronomers Capture First Confirmed Picture of a Planet Being Born
Sandra Phillips | 05 July, 2018, 20:26

Astronomers have been detecting planets beyond our solar system for a few years now, but this is the first time we have seen an image of that's not an artist's impression.

The planet is actually being born around a star which, as per the cosmological timescale, is young with 5.4 million years of age. Of course, the center isn't naturally this dark.

With help from one of Earth's most powerful telescopes, an worldwide team of astronomers has snapped a spectacular snapshot of a newborn planet emerging from the disk of gas and debris surrounding its host star.

Other images have shown planetlike features in the disks around their host stars, but it was always hard to tell for sure that the features represented actual planets. Reseachers were using the SPHERE, a planet-hunting instrument attached to the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT), to scan the star's rings when they stumbled upon the young planet.

'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 discovery, detailed in a paper in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, could yield a ton of new knowledge for scientists. More studies are going on for analysing the circular disc around the baby planet.

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Thomas Henning, director at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and leader of the teams, summarises the scientific adventure: "After more than a decade of enormous efforts to build this high-tech machine, now SPHERE enables us to reap the harvest with the discovery of baby planets!"

Behold: this is the first confirmed image of a planet being born. For a long time, astronomers suspected that such holes are caused by the interaction between the disk and a planet in formation.

This is incredibly challenging, because even though SPHERE used the coronagraph to block the star, it had to seek out the planet's signal in multiple ways. Scientists could determine that this was a huge gas planet with a surface temperature around 1,883 degrees Fahrenheit.

"To understand better how planets form, and finally also to learn about the early history of our own solar system, we need to detect young planets, such as PDS 70b".

They also deduced that it has a cloudy atmosphere.

What do they know about the planet?

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