Astronomers spot likely first evidence of a new planet being born

A red yellow and orange spiral much like a cyclone with a black 'eye' in the centre

Astronomers spot likely first evidence of a new planet being born

This large young planet is forming around a star called AB Aurigae that is about 2.4 times the mass of the sun and located in our Milky Way galaxy 520 light years from Earth, researchers said on Wednesday (May 20). In the ALMA images, scientists spotted two spiral arms of gas close to the star, lying within the disc's inner region.

If the astronomers are correct, this image will reportedly be the first direct evidence of such an incredible event.

He added: "We need to observe very young systems to really capture the moment when planets form".

The European Southern Observatory released a picture Wednesday of what astronomers believe shows the process of cosmic matter in the midst of a gravitational tipping point, collapsing into a new world around a nearby star. In December 2019 and January 2020, an global team of scientists used the Very Large Telescope in Chile to take some high-contrast images of AB Aurigae in near-infrared light, resulting in highly detailed pictures of the protoplanetary cloud. This map shows most of the stars visible to the unaided eye under good conditions and the system itself is marked with a red circle.

The spirals seen in the image signal the presence of baby planets, which "kick" the gas and create wave-like disturbances.

Several squat research buildings in a desert landscape with the milky way in the sky
The new planet being formed was spotted using ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile

As the planet rotates around the central star, this wave gets shaped into a spiral arm. The very bright yellow "twist" close to the centre of the image, is one of these disturbance sites where a planet could be forming. The research team, made up of astronomers from France, Taiwan, the USA and Belgium, said the images are the deepest observations of the AB Aurigae system made to date.

"The twist is expected from some theoretical models of planet formation", said Anne Dutrey, an astronomer at the Astrophysics Laboratory of Bordeaux and co-author of the study published Wednesday in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

'It corresponds to the connection of two spirals-one winding inwards of the planet's orbit, the other expanding outwards-which join at the planet location. In a massive disc of swirling gas and dust around the star, they detected a distinct twist, which could indicate where a new planet is forming and validate a major theory about planetary formation.

"Thousands of exoplanets have been identified so far, but little is known about how they form", study lead author Anthony Boccaletti, of the Observatoire de Paris at the Université Paris Sciences et Lettres in France, said in the same statement.

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