First confirmed image of a newborn planet revealed

The planet, now known as PDS 70b, is shown orbiting within a huge spinning "protoplanetary disc" of gas and dust, which proves it is continuing to accumulate matter, and so is not yet fully formed. Instead, the researchers used a coronagraph to block the bright light of the star in order to look at the disk and the planet.

The discovery was made using the powerful planet-hunting tool called SPHERE, which is part of the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope. Scientists described PDS 70b as a "giant gas planet with a mass a few times that of Jupiter" that is "much hotter than any planet in our own solar system". It has a surface temperature of around 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 degrees Celsius) and takes 120 years to orbit its host star.

Miriam Kessler, who headed up the group that found this wonderful 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 is about 1.9 billion miles away from its star, which is roughly the same distance between Uranus and our Sun.

Capturing a planet's birth is exceptionally hard because it's often too far away to see on a telescope.

'By determining the planet's atmospheric and physical properties, the astronomers are able to test theoretical models of planet formation'. Two sets of researchers, published in two different papers in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics on Monday, detailed how a planet is formed.

Planets emerge in the swirling disks of dust and gas that race around stars for the first 10 million years of their lives.

The planet stands out clearly in the image, visible as a bright point to the right of the blackened centre. The black dot is used to mask the light of its star, which would otherwise overwhelm the image and hide the young planet.

André Müller, who is also with the Max Planck Institute and led the second team, said that Keppler's results give "us a new window onto the complex and poorly-understood early stages of planetary evolution".

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

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