Astronomers capture the first image of a baby planet

science SCIENCE / TECHNOLOGY
Published:

Thanks to European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope, a group of astronomers have taken the first photograph of a planet being formed around a young dwarf star called PDS 70. The planet has been named PDS 70b. 

You can clearly see the newly forming planet, which is the bright spot to the right of the black dot in the middle of the picture. The black area is the star, which has been blotted out with a coronagraph. This allows astronomers to see details that would otherwise be overwhelmed by the light of PDS 70b.

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). That's about the distance between Uranus and our Sun. PDS 70b appears to be a gas giant, with a larger mass than Jupiter. The surface temperature is currently a steamy 1000 degrees Celsius (1832 degrees F).

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. This is the first time they've actually been able to detect a separate baby planet.


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