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First confirmed image of the birth of a planet

05 July 2018

The baby planet has been spotted for the first time on Monday, July 2nd. Actually it's the first day.

The image was captured by a planet-hunting instrument called SPHERE, on the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO). The footage in itself is incredible. That's depending on the name of the star in its orbit, PDS 70. It is located around 3 billion kilometres away from the star. Within these so-called protoplanetary disks - which can be up to 1000 astronomical units wide (1 AU is the average Earth-Sun distance of 93 million miles) - particles of gas and dust clump together over time, slowly but surely forming larger bodies that may eventually reach planetary status. Scientists could determine that this was a huge gas planet with a surface temperature around 1,883 degrees Fahrenheit. 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.

On analysis, it was found that the baby gaseous planet has a hole in the centre with a disc.

The mystery of how planets are formed has boggled scientists for centuries, but newly captured photos of a fledgling planet nestled in the rings of a young dwarf star could be about to unlock the secrets of deep space.

"For our study, we selected PDS 70, a star that was already suspected of having a young planet circling around it", says Miriam Keppler, doctoral student at MPIA.

According to the news, the finding would not have been possible without SPHERE instrument, which uses the technology of high contrast imaging.

"The problem is that until now, most of these planet candidates could just have been features in the disc".

The planet was given the creative name of PDS 70B and it is quite large, about two or three times bigger than Jupiter in fact. 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. "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!" said Thomas Henning, director at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and leader of the teams.

First confirmed image of the birth of a planet