Scientists Observe A Planet Being Formed For The Very First Time

It's a Beautiful Baby Exoplanet! Historic

The planet, now known as PDS 70b, is shown orbiting within a huge spinning "protoplanetary disc" of gas and dust, which proves it is continuing to accumulate matter, and so is not yet fully formed.

Scientists said Monday the planet appears as a bright spot in the snapshot taken using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile.

PDS 70b is a gas giant with a mass several times that of Jupiter. The surface temperature is now a steamy 1000 degrees Celsius (1832 degrees F). 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 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.

They also deduced that it has a cloudy atmosphere.

It is located roughly three billion kilometres from the central star, which is about the same as the distance between Uranus and the Sun. The object of their attention is a still-forming planet that orbits around PDS 70, a young dwarf star. That blob is a coronagraph - a mask that researchers apply directly onto the star, lest its light blocks out everything else in the image.

In the images, the newborn planet rips through the material surrounding the star. 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.

[Scientists] will be able to explore the atmospheric and physical properties and compare them with how planets are expected to form.

"We have never seen a convincing case of a planet around a young star to guide our understanding of planet formation", Thomas Henning, a lead author of the connected paper about PDS 70b, told The Outline in an email. For the first time ever, astronomers have discovered a planet being formed and have shared the awe-inspiring image.

"Keppler's results give us a new window onto the complex and poorly-understood early stages of planetary evolution", said Müller.

This glimpse at the dust-shrouded planetary birth was enabled by SPHERE, which studies exoplanets and discs around nearby stars using high-contrast imaging.

Once they'd sifted out the starlight, scientists probed the mysterious baby planet.



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