A planet-hunting instrument has captured the first confirmed image of a newborn planet that's still forming in our galaxy. The young planet is carving a path through the primordial disc of gas and dust around the very young star PDS 70.
"These discs around young stars are the birthplaces of planets, but so far only a handful of observations have detected hints of baby planets in them", Miriam Kepler, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy who helped lead the research, said in a press release.
PDS 70b is much hotter than any planet in our solar system, registering a sizzling 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 degrees Celsius), the researchers determined.
While a newborn planet might sound like an interesting place to visit, you most certainly wouldn't want to set foot on PDS 70b any time soon. The theory was that it was created by the interaction between the formation of a new planet and the disc itself.
The planet, named PDS 70b, is careening through the dust cloud as it orbits its star, gathering material on its surface and slowly but surely maturing into what will one day be a fully-formed world.
The discovery by two teams of researchers is detailed in two papers published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics on Monday. But in a recent feat, scientists used an instrument called Sphere to capture it at last - a great win after they had started looking for a possible baby planet in 2012.
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.
At just 5.4 million years old, the infant planet is very youthful compared to Earth, which is more than 4.5 billion years old. Without this mask, the faint light from the planet would be utterly overwhelmed by the intense brightness of PDS 70. One astronomical unit is the distance between the sun and Earth, or almost 93 million miles.
Although the planet looks close to its star in the image, it's 1,864,113,576 miles away.
Welcome to the universe, PDS 70b.
'By determining the planet's atmospheric and physical properties, the astronomers are able to test theoretical models of planet formation'. The data suggest that the planet's atmosphere is cloudy.
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