Astronomers have captured this image of a planet that's still forming in the disk of gas and dust around its star. Like life on earth, the planets orbiting other stars throughout the universe are incredibly diverse. Scientists said Monday the planet appears as a bright spot in the snapshot taken using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile. PDS 70b is a young gas giant with "a mass a few times that of Jupiter". The young planet is absolutely scorching, with a surface temperature topping 1,000 degrees Celsius.
The distance between the newly forming planet and its host star is about 3 billion km (somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.8 billion miles).
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. 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. "The problem is that, until now, most of these planet candidates could just have been features in the disk".
The telescope's SPHERE instrument was able to observe the exoplanet at multiple wavelengths, revealing the young planet's atmosphere.
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The researchers report the discovery of PDS 70b and its measured and inferred characteristics in a pair of new studies, both of which were published online today (July 2) in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.
This image shows the sky around the faint orange dwarf star PDS 70 (in the middle of the image).
"Keppler's results give us a new window onto the complex and poorly-understood early stages of planetary evolution". Now, scientists can see it happening for themselves, thanks to the discovery of this planet and this photograph.
The bright point to the right of the image center is planet PDS 70b. The black dot is used to mask the light of its star, which would otherwise overwhelm the image and hide the young planet.