For the first time, astronomers have captured images of a newborn planet forming around a star.
Isn’t this exciting. Here is a detailed image of the birthing process!
As reported by the European Southern Observatory, the planet appears as a bright spot just to the right of the center of the image. It is seen carving its way through the dust and gas around its star. The black dot – a filter – officially known as a coronagraph – blocks the light from the star and allows astronomers to detect the much fainter planet and the discs surrounding the star.
Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany captured this spectacular picture from the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. The telescope has one of the most sophisticated planet-hunting instruments in existence today, known as SPHERE.
The newborn planet, PS 70b, is a gas giant and several times the mass of planet Jupiter. It is swirling around a young star, PDS70, at a distance similar to the gap between Uranus and the Sun.
To put this in context, these discs i.e. rings of gas and dust around young stars are the birthplaces of planets. In the past astronomers believe they have detected objects believed to be newborn planets in these discs using the Kepler telescope. The Kepler telescope uses an indirect technique to identify the presence of a planet around a star. This is the first time, they have a direct image of a newborn planet in the birthing process.
Our Earth is billions of years old. Even the planets in our solar system are past the newborn stage. Scientists do not have proof as to how baby planets are formed. They have theories that planets are formed from material left over when a star is born. The planets take shape as they keep devouring the gas and dust around them! Let’s hope this discovery helps us understand the evolution of new worlds outside our solar system.
Adapted from a report published by the European Southern Observatory