This is the First Confirmed Picture of a Newborn Planet

With Very Large Telescope, astronomers spy a planet being born around a young star

With Very Large Telescope, astronomers spy a planet being born around a young star

The protoplanetary disk is the "planet factory" full of gas and dust around young stars.

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

The planet, dubbed PDS 70b, was detected by an global team using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile and its planet-hunting instrument, called SPHERE. Surprisingly, the team also suggests the baby planet itself is surrounded by its own disk of material (called a circumplanetary disk), though this is much more hard to verify.

"For our study, we selected PDS 70, a star that was already suspected of having a young planet circling around it", says Miriam Keppler, doctoral student at MPIA.

For decades, astronomers have thought that planets form out of the rotating disks of debris that encircle most newly formed stars. The instrument is considered to be one of the most powerful planet hunters in existence.

"The problem is that until now, most of these planet candidates could just have been features in the disc". Using the instrument, astronomers were able measure the brightness of the planet at different wavelengths, and find out its composition. 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 planet PDS 70b sits about 1.86 billion miles away from its host star, roughly as far as Uranus is from our sun.

"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. 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.

Directly imaging the planet is a game-changer. "We needed to observe a planet in a young star's disc to really understand the processes behind planet formation".

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