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Astronomers Observe The Birth of A New Planet

A team of astronomers from ETH Zurich have suggested that an important event in the heavens might be observed for the first time: the birth of a new planet situated 355 light-years away from us. The findings have been published in The Astrophysical Journal.

new planet

Formation of a giant gas planet (right) near the star HD 100546 (left). Artist’s impression: ESO / L. Calçada.

The astronomers requested for the Very Large Telescope (VLT) to be directed at a particular point in the sky to observe the phenomenon.

The star called HD 100546 was first spotted 2 years ago, in 2013. It is said that a young gas planet, bearing similarities to Jupiter, which is also a gas giant, is orbiting the star.

The young planet orbits around the young star with an epic disk of gas and dust around it – a circumstellar disk. The planet is found in the middle of this dusty disk. It is said to form when a dense region of gas pulls tighter together. The swirling gas gradually takes into more material towards itself such that a gas planet is formed.

At first, it was suggested that the planet might be an older gas planet formed towards the center of the disc. It can now be properly observed because it is moving outwards.

“It’s a scenario we still can’t rule out completely,” said one of the authors, Sascha Quanz of ETH Zurich. “But it’s much less likely than our explanation, which suggests that what we’re seeing is the birth of a planet.”

However, the likelihood of it being an old planet moving outwards from its circumstellar disk is deemed to be smaller than it being a newly-born planet in that location. Furthermore, new data hint at the latter: the source of the signal detected came from just outside the circumstellar disk and not from another source.

“The best explanation for the observed phenomena is that a new planet is actually in the process of formation, embedded in the disk surrounding its parent star,” conclude the researchers in their paper.

The giant gas planet is not yet formed completely, and therefore the astronomers believe they might observe the process of its formation.


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