World's first images of a newborn planet reveal birth of alien world
World's first images of a newborn planet reveal birth of alien world
03 July, 2018, 01:55
The images that the team captured show the planet as a bright point beside the black filter covering the star at the centre of the image. Instead, the researchers used a coronagraph to block the bright light of the star in order to look at the disk and the planet.
Operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the telescope has one of the most sophisticated planet-hunting instruments in existence, known as SPHERE. This is at least a few times the mass of Jupiter, the largest gas giant in our solar system, and well above the highest temperature recorded on any planet in our solar system.
The planet is about 3 billion km from the central star - roughly the same distance between Uranus and the Sun.
Researchers have always been on the hunt for a baby planet, and this is the first confirmed discovery of its kind. By carefully parsing the data underlying the new imagery, astronomers are able to determine some of the planet's chemical and physical properties. The ESOcast Light episodes will not be replacing the standard, longer ESOcasts, but complement them with current astronomy news and images in ESO press releases.
"The problem is that until now, most of these planet candidates could just have been features in the disc".
The observations revealed the presence of a newborn gas giant in PDS 70's surrounding protoplanetary disk.
Planets emerge in the swirling disks of dust and gas that race around stars for the first 10 million years of their lives. To that end, the SPHERE system incorporates a coronagraph, which obscures the blinding light of the central star and allows astronomers to detect the much fainter light bouncing off the planet and the spinning disk of coronal materials.
André Müller, who is also with the Max Planck Institute and led the second team, said that Keppler's results give "us a new window onto the complex and poorly-understood early stages of planetary evolution".
'We needed to observe a planet in a young star's disc to really understand the processes behind planet formation. What makes this discovery so interesting is that it's the first time that scientists have managed to spot such a young planet with utter certainty.
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