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05 July 2018, 08:23 | Edward Lowe
HL Tau protoplanetary disk as seen by ALMA
Astronomers have captured the first ever confirmed image of a newborn planet forming around a young dwarf star-an ambitious task that has previously proved elusive to scientists.
The planet, dubbed PDS 70b, was detected by an global team using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope in Chile and its planet-hunting instrument, called SPHERE.
"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 Miriam Keppler of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, who led one of the research teams. They also fetched the tentative details about the temperature of the planet which has been reported somewhere around 1000 degree Celsius.
This finding confirms the hypothetical model of planetary construction and will help scientists to understand the birth of planets very well.
For decades, astronomers have thought that planets form out of the rotating disks of debris that encircle most newly formed stars.
In the featured photo, the dark region is actually the effect of a coronagraph, which masks the extremely bright light emanating from the star. However, despite years of searching, astronomers have so-far failed to directly image a planet forming within one of these hot and chaotic disks. Surprisingly, the team also suggests the baby planet itself is surrounded by its own disk of material (called a circumplanetary disk), though this is much more hard to verify.
Because this planet is a gas giant just like Jupiter is, monitoring its growth could reveal more about how quickly Jupiter formed alongside Earth. "While discovering how planet formation takes place around other stars, we learn as well about the history of our own solar system". Analysis of this spectrum indicated that its atmosphere is cloudy.
The black circle in the centre of the image, to the left of the planet, is a filter to block the light from the star, enabling other features of the system to be seen.
Following this, its distance from its parent star, the characteristics of the planet like brightness, temperature and its parameters related to the atmosphere are some of the major aspects to be studied by the SPHERE instrument.
Andre Muller, a MPIA researcher based in Heidelberg, Germany, said: "Now we have proof that planetary objects (carve) a gap in the disk".
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