It is a moment of birth that has previously proved elusive, but astronomers say they now have the first confirmed image of the formation of a planet.
The startling snapshot shows a bright blob – the nascent planet – travelling through the dust and gas surrounding a young star, known as PDS70, thought to be about 370 light years from Earth.
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.
Captured by the Sphere instrument of the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, the planet – a gas giant with a mass greater than Jupiter – is about as far from its star as Uranus is from our sun, with further analyses revealing that it appears to have a cloudy atmosphere and a surface temperature of 1000C. [Continue reading…]