Wednesday, 20 February, 2019

Scientists Observe A Planet Being Formed For The Very First Time

Theresa Hayes | 03 July, 2018, 05:58

For the first time in history, scientists have captured a picture of a planet being born. The planet is thought to be about 370 light years from Earth. The SPHERE device - which stands for Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch instrument - studies exoplanets and discs around nearby stars using a technique known as high-contrast imaging.

PDS 70b is approximately 1.86 billion miles (roughly 3 billion kilometers, or the same distance from Uranus to the Sun) away from the star it orbits, a young dwarf star named PDS 70.

The planet, "PDS 70b" is a very large body of gas, with several times more mass than Jupiter, in a lonely rotation 3 billion miles from the star it rotates. That's because in order to understand how planets form, astronomers needed to capture this one crucial, sensitive, rare moment in time: the actual birth of a planet. Without this mask, the faint light from the planet would be utterly overwhelmed by the intense brightness of PDS 70.

"These disks around young stars are the birthplaces of planets, but so far only a handful of observations have detected hints of baby planets in them", lead researcher Miriam Keppler said in a statement released with the new image.

'The problem is that until now, most of these planet candidates could just have been features in the disc'.

The discovery of PDS 70b is a significant event for astronomers, and subsequent teams of researchers are already following up on the initial research.

An artist's concept of a dusty, planet-forming disk around a star.

They also deduced that it has a cloudy atmosphere.

PDS 70's planetary companion has sculpted a transition disc - a protoplanetary disc with a giant "hole" in the centre. Now we can see the planet for the first time.

"After this exciting discovery, I hope many more detections of [this] kind of planets will come in the future, enabling us to get a statistical view on the properties of young, forming planets", Keppler added.

Researchers only have our own Solar System on which to build this theory, so being able to visualise planets like PDS 70b in the early stages will help astronomers to understand more about this process.