This is the first time we've ever seen a newborn planet

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

First confirmed image of a newborn planet revealed

According to ESO, the observations - captured by SPHERE, VLT's planet-hunting instrument - included the "first confirmed image of a planet caught in the act of forming in the dusty disc surrounding a young star".

The discovery of the planet's formation, known as PDS 70b, was made possible thanks to the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile and its planet-finding instrument, known as SPHERE.

The bright point to the right of the image center is planet PDS 70b. The Guardian reports that further analyses reveal that the planet seems to have a cloudy atmosphere and a surface temperature of 1,000 degrees Celsius. This is the first time they've actually been able to detect a separate baby planet.

SPHERE features a coronagraph, which blocks out the blinding light of a star, allowing dim orbiting planets to be resolved.

Airlines take mixed stance on Bali volcano
Passengers looks at an information board at Bali's worldwide airport, Indonesia on Thursday, June 28. Two other airports in East Java were also ordered closed on Friday, according to DPA news agency.

The new image suggests the newborn planet has created sizable gaps in the protoplanetary disk. 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.

"The problem is that until now, most of these planet candidates could just have been features in the disc", explained Dr Keppler, who lead the team behind the discovery of the planet. Without this mask, the faint light from the planet would be utterly overwhelmed by the intense brightness of PDS 70.

At just 5.4 million years old, the infant planet is very youthful compared to Earth, which is more than 4.5 billion years old. That's about the distance between Uranus and our Sun. Eventually, that "dust bunny" attracts more space materials until it grows bigger and bigger and forms a planet. However, only now has the timing been ideal enough to capture this image of gas giant PDS 70b.

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. The planet is also as hefty as a few Jupiters, which is on the upper range of planethood.

Latest News