First confirmed image of a newborn planet revealed


According to ESO, the observations - captured by SPHERE, VLT's planet-hunting instrument - included the "first confirmed image of a planet caught in the act of forming in the dusty disc surrounding a young star".

The photos were taken by the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope and are the first to show a "newborn" world.

The planet stands out clearly in the image, visible as a bright point to the right of the blackened centre.

"PDS 70b, which is found in the large gap of its parental disk, now finally confirms that planets do play an important role in the formation of these gaps", said Keppler, who works at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy.

"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!" Further analysis shows that the new planet is a giant gas planet with a total mass several times that of Jupiter.

Earth is billions of years old.

The astronomy team that captured the new image was led a group from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany. 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.

Picking out the faint planet from the brilliant light of its host star was a challenge for the team.

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

The researchers report the discovery of PDS 70b and its measured and inferred characteristics in a pair of new studies, both of which were published online today (July 2) in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The bigger they get, the more gravity they have, and the more additional debris they attract - including other planets in the process of forming. That's the same distance as Uranus from our sun.

By determining the planet's atmospheric and physical properties, the astronomers are able to test theoretical models of planet formation. However, only now has the timing been ideal enough to capture this image of gas giant PDS 70b. The data suggest that the planet's atmosphere is cloudy.