It appears to be a gas giant planet a few times more massive than Jupiter, the king of our solar system.
The newborn sits within a 5.4 million-year-old solar system, orbiting a star called PDS 70. And compared with their normal life spans of several billions of years - our sun is about 4.5 billion years old - that makes the gas giant planet just a babe. The impressive snapshot shows the formation of a young planet named PDS 70b emerging from the dwarf star PDS 70.
The planet, dubbed PDS 70b, was detected by an worldwide team using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile and its planet-hunting instrument, called SPHERE. "Even when blocking the light from a star with a coronagraph, SPHERE still has to use cleverly devised observing strategies and data processing techniques to filter out the signal of the faint planetary companions around bright young stars at multiple wavelengths and epochs".
'I examine meteorites that come from asteroids - which are the building blocks of planets - in the hope of eventually figuring out how a cloud of dust and gas becomes the complex solar system we live in. SHINE aims to image 600 young nearby stars while DISK targets known, young planetary systems and their circumstellar discs. 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.
Miriam Kepler of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany said hints of baby planets have been detected before, but astronomers weren't sure whether those observations might simply be features in the swirling dust.
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Furthermore, in a second study, also published online yesterday in Astronomy & Astrophysics, a separate group of researchers estimated the characteristics of the newborn planet, dubbed PDS 70b. But they added that they hope to study the planet with different telescopes to learn more about its composition, weather and other properties; so far, they can tell it has a cloudy atmosphere. The planet takes about 120 years to orbit its host star. "We needed to observe a planet in a young star's disc to really understand the processes behind planet formation". The image marks the first time the newly birthed planet can be seen.
The investigation that captured the image was led by Dr André Müller, a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA).
The researchers' analyses suggest that PDS 70b is two to three times bigger than Jupiter and lies about 1.9 billion miles (3 billion kilometers) from its star-about as far as Uranus is from the sun.
"After more than a decade of enormous efforts to build this high-tech machine, now SPHERE enables us to reap the harvest with the discovery of baby planets!"