BERLIN (AP) — Astronomers say they’ve captured the first confirmed image of a planet forming in the dust swirling around a young star.
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 – yes, that’s really the name.
Miriam Kepler of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany said hints of baby planets have been detected before, but astronomers weren’t sure whether those observations might simply be features in the swirling dust.
In a paper to be published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, scientists describe the planet, located about 3 billion kilometers (1.86 billion miles) from the star PDS 70, as a gas giant bigger two- to three-times bigger than Jupiter. They say it has a cloudy atmosphere and a surface temperature of 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 degrees Fahrenheit).
According to a report from Space.com, PDS 70 is 370 light years from Earth and is approximately 5.4 billion years old. The extreme temperatures on the new planet – which is being referred to as PDS 70b – make it hotter than any in our solar system, the report said, adding that this isn’t uncommon for newborn gas giants, which retain a great deal of heat generated during their formation.
André Müller, the author of one of two companion studies, said this discovery helps us understand planetary evolution.
“We needed to observe a planet in a young star’s disk to really understand the processes behind planet formation,” Müller said.
Written by The Associated Press.
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