Very Large Telescope snaps first confirmed photo of a newborn planet

Very Large Telescope snaps first confirmed photo of a newborn planet

The young planet is carving a path through the primordial disc of gas and dust around the very young star PDS 70.

Scientists have for the first time witnessed the birth of a planet, a huge gas giant many times the size of Jupiter, swirling into existence 370 light years from Earth.

European Southern Observatory teams used a powerful planet-hunting instrument called SPHERE on the Very Large Telescope in the Atacama Desert, Chile, to produce the image.

"These discs around young stars are the birthplaces of planets, but so far only a handful of observations have detected hints of baby planets in them", said Dr Miriam Keppler.

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The new planet - named PDS 70b - is orbiting roughly three billion miles from the central star, around the same distance between Uranus and the sun.

Astronomers known that planets form from solar clouds which stars leave behind when they come into a being, but until now, the details surrounding the phenomena have been mysterious. In the past, astronomers have caught glimpses of what may have been new planets forming, but until now it had been impossible to tell whether such images just showed shapes in the dust or the beginnings of true planet formation.

"This discovery provides us with an unprecedented opportunity to test theoretical models of planet formation", said André Müller, a member of the research team. "The problem is that, until now, most of these planet candidates could just have been features in the disk". Without the mask, the light from planet would be overhwhelmed by PDS 70. Two sets of researchers, published in two different papers in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics on Monday, detailed how a planet is formed.

"Keppler's results give us a new window onto the complex and poorly-understood early stages of planetary evolution". Using a powerful planet-hunting instrument on the telescope called SPHERE, an worldwide team of scientists was able to study the newborn planet at a crucial point in its development. 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. Thomas Henning, director at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy said in the statement.

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