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Scientists Spy Baby Planet Being Born Near a Young Star for the First Time

First Posted: Nov 19, 2015 07:00 AM EST
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Astronomers may have spotted a baby planet being born around a young star. The new findings may reveal a bit more about planet formation outside of our own galaxy.

About 450 light-years from Earth, you can find LkCa15, a young star with a transition disk around it. This disk, in particular, is the perfect birthplace for planets. In this case, though, researchers have managed to capture the first photo of a planet in the making residing in a gap in the disk.

Of the 2,000 known exoplanets, which are planets that orbit a star other than our sun, only about 10 have been imaged. In addition, these images are long after the planets have formed, rather than capturing them as they're being created.

Protoplanetary disks form around young stars using the debris left over from the star's formation. It's suspected that planets then form inside the disk, sweeping up dust and debris as the materials fall into the planets instead of staying in the disk or falling into the star. A gap is then created in which the planets then reside-which is what the researchers see in the latest image.

"Results like this have only been made possible with the application of a lot of very advanced new technology to the business of imaging stars, and it's really great to see them yielding such impressive results," said Peter Tuthill, one of the study's co-authors, in a news release.

The findings confirm how planets form around a newly born star. In addition, it shows off the capabilities of new, imaging instruments.

The findings are published in the journal Nature.

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