Wednesday, 14 November, 2018

See the first image of baby planet being formed

This spectacular image from the SPHERE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope is the first clear image of a planet caught in the very act of formation around the dwarf star PDS 70. The planet stands clearly out visible as a bright point to the righ Image This spectacular image from the SPHERE instrument. Pic ESO
Sandra Phillips | 03 July, 2018, 19:18

The ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile captured the first confirmed image of a newborn planet around the star PDS 70. SPHERE was created to study exoplanets and proto-planetary discs using a technique known as high-contrast imaging to filter out the planet's light from the glare of its star. The planet is thought to be about 370 light years from Earth.

In this image of a star known as PDS 70, a newly formed planet can be seen just to the right of the star's blocked disc, shining in a gap in circumstellar gas and dust. But PDS 70b is far from an icy space outpost: its surface temperature is a scorching 1832 degrees Fahrenheit.

"The problem is that until now, most of these planet candidates could just have been features in the disc", explained Dr Keppler, who lead the team behind the discovery of the planet. The data from SPHERE also allowed the team to measure the planet's brightness over different wavelengths - based on which they estimated the properties of its atmosphere.

The planet is about 3 billion km from the central star - roughly the same distance between Uranus and the Sun. 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 chose to focus their efforts to find it.

Picking out the faint planet from the brilliant light of its host star was a challenge for the team. The instrument was able to spot a large mass of material - referred to as an accretion disk - surrounding a nearby star. 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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"We needed to observe a planet in a young star's disc to really understand the processes behind planet formation", Müller added in the statement.

The discovery of PDS 70b is a significant event for astronomers, and subsequent teams of researchers are already following up on the initial research.

"Keppler's results give us a new window onto the complex and poorly-understood early stages of planetary evolution", said astronomer André Müller of the MPIA. This is the first time they've actually been able to detect a separate baby planet.

The footage is important because, up until this point, scientists largely believed in a dominant theory for planet formation that they were unable to confirm.

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