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. It shows a planet, dubbed PDS 70b, taking shape in the disc of gas and star dust surrounding the young dwarf star PDS 70.
The black circle in the centre of the image is a filter to block the light from the star, enabling other features of the system to be seen.
The planet, "PDS 70b" is a big body of gas, with several times more mass than Jupiter, in a lonely rotation 3 billion miles from the star it rotates. The young planet is absolutely scorching, with a surface temperature topping 1,000 degrees Celsius.
Astronomers known that planets form from solar clouds which stars leave behind when they come into a being, but until now, the details surrounding the phenomena have been mysterious. The ESOcast Light episodes will not be replacing the standard, longer ESOcasts, but complement them with current astronomy news and images in ESO press releases.
Planets emerge in the swirling disks of dust and gas that race around stars for the first 10 million years of their lives.
"The problem is that until now, most of these planet candidates could just have been features in the disc".
SPHERE was able to measure the planet's brightness at different wavelengths, which enabled the researchers to determine the properties of its atmosphere.
The discovery of PDS 70b is a significant event for astronomers, and subsequent teams of researchers are already following up on the initial research.
Although the planet looks close to its star in the image, it's 1,864,113,576 miles away.
André Müller, who is also with the Max Planck Institute and led the second team, said that Keppler's results give "us a new window onto the complex and poorly-understood early stages of planetary evolution". Now, scientists can see it happening for themselves, thanks to the discovery of this planet and this photograph. Thomas Henning, director at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and leader of the teams, said in a statement.
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