Scientists Observe A Planet Being Formed For The Very First Time
Scientists Observe A Planet Being Formed For The Very First Time
First confirmed image of a newborn planet revealed
03 July, 2018, 19:20
So - and bear with me here - the young planet, which has been given the catchy title PDS 70b, was captured tearing out of the planet forming materials that were swirling around it.
The image was captured by the Sphere instrument of the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope. The astronomers used the powerful VLT and something called a coronagraph, which masked the very bright light of the dwarf star so that the planet could be visible.
The birth of a planet has been caught on camera for the first time, by an global team of astronomers led by a group at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany.
Surface temperatures are thought to exceed 1,000C; far greater than those on any planet in our Solar System. A second team, involving numerous same astronomers as the discovery team, including Keppler, has in the past months followed up the initial observations to investigate PDS 70's fledgling planetary companion in more detail. 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.
Directly imaging the planet is a game-changer. Data compiled by SPHERE also allowed the researchers to deduce that the planet's atmosphere is cloudy.
That meant that the boffins could get a much clearer look at the never-before-seen stuff that was happening without the light of the nearby star obscuring it. Like life on earth, the planets orbiting other stars throughout the universe are incredibly diverse.
'The problem is that until now, most of these planet candidates could just have been features in the disc'. Such features were known previously, but this is the first time the planet causing one has been directly detected. That's about the distance between Uranus and our Sun.
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Despite the fact that it can take ages for a planet to fully form, actually capturing the process of planet formation has proven to be incredibly hard.
"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.
Max Planck Institute director and team leader Thomas Hedding summarized the importance of the findings.
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