Newborn planet pictured for first time

First confirmed image of a newborn planet revealed

An worldwide team of astronomers has released the first image ever captured of a planet being born in deep space. The planet takes approximately 120 years to orbit its star, the researchers added in the research paper that detailed their findings.

The image was captured by the Sphere instrument of the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope.

In this image of a star known as PDS 70, a newly formed planet can be seen just to the right of the star's blocked disc, shining in a gap in circumstellar gas and dust. The young planet is absolutely scorching, with a surface temperature topping 1,000 degrees Celsius.

The new planet is named PDS 70b because it was caught forming a dusty disc around a star called PDS 70.

'The problem is that until now, most of these planet candidates could just have been features in the disc'. The data from SPHERE also allowed the team to measure the planet's brightness over different wavelengths - based on which they estimated the properties of its atmosphere.

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The newborn sits within a 5.4m-year-old solar system, orbiting a star called PDS 70 at a distance of 3 billion kilometres. That blob is a coronagraph - a mask that researchers apply directly onto the star, lest its light blocks out everything else in the image. A second team, involving numerous same astronomers as the discovery team, including Keppler, has in the past months followed up the initial observations to investigate PDS 70's fledgling planetary companion in more detail.

Planet formation had previously been hidden from the human eye by dust, but a team at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy grabbed a clear image of the planet breaking through the disc from which it forms. Currently, PDS 70d is busy carving a path through the planet-forming material surrounding the young star, the researchers note, making it instantly stand out.

While a newborn planet might sound like an interesting place to visit, you most certainly wouldn't want to set foot on PDS 70b any time soon. "We needed to observe a planet in a young star's disc to really understand the processes behind planet formation".

The footage is important because, up until this point, scientists largely believed in a dominant theory for planet formation that they were unable to confirm. 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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