ESOcast 169 Light: First Confirmed Image of Newborn Planet (4K UHD)

Astronomers have seen these discs of planet-forming materials surrounding young stars before, but the young planets have always just been a part of the disc.

Getting this data is not easy: it requires using the ground-based "VLT" (short for "Very Large Telescope") perched on a mountaintop in Chile and using "SPHERE", a specialized planet-finding instrument, which has been used for three years.

The research reveals that PDS 70b is a giant, with a mass "a few times that of Jupiter".

Researchers were able to determine that it's a giant gas planet and has a blisteringly hot surface temperature of 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit.

Miriam Kessler, who headed up the group that found this incredible event, told the Independent: "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".

The planet takes approximately 120 years to orbit its star, the researchers added in the research paper that detailed their findings.

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Until now, it had proven impossible to capture the birth of a planet as it is usually obscured by dust, but now they've finally managed to get shots of a planet breaking out of a "disc" from which it is formed.

The planet can be seen just right of center inside the disk (the very bright blur). Eventually, that "dust bunny" attracts more space materials until it grows bigger and bigger and forms a planet. The results of the research will be shared in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics [PDF].

Thomas Henning, director at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy and leader of both of the teams, said: "After more than a decade of enormous efforts to build this high-tech machine, now SPHERE enables us to reap the harvest with the discovery of baby planets!"

Astronomers observing circumstellar disks shredded with gaps, rings and spirals have long thought planet formation could be behind these structures. That's the same distance as Uranus from our sun. This is the first time they've actually been able to detect a separate baby planet.

'We needed to observe a planet in a young star's disc to really understand the processes behind planet formation.

The image is the first confirmed direct observation of such a young exoplanet, discovery team members said.

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