Published: Thu, May 21, 2020
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ESO telescope captures the birth of a planet

ESO telescope captures the birth of a planet

Then, in 2019 and early 2020, Anthony Boccaletti and a team of astronomers from France, Taiwan, the USA and Belgium set out to capture a clearer picture by turning the Sphere instrument on ESO's VLT in Chile toward the star. The one on the right shows the inner region of the disc, including the bright yellow twist, circled in white.

According to Dr Boccaletti, the baby planet is located about 30 times further from AB Aurigae than Earth's distance from our sun, which is around the same placement as the planet Neptune.

In an examination distributed in Astronomy and Astrophysics today, a group of space experts clarify how they caught pictures of a youthful star, AB Aurigae, 520 light-years from Earth.

"We need to observe very young systems to really capture the moment of planet formation".

The researchers also spotted another remarkable feature - the very bright yellow "twist" in the inner region of the AB Aurigae disk.

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.

Very Large Telescope snapped stunning images of dust and gas twisting in the constellation Auriga.

Astronomers believe they may have found the first direct evidence of a new planet being born. In 2019 and early 2020, astronomers from Belgium, France, Taiwan and the United States obtained the deepest images of the AB Aurigae system to date.

Birth of a star

The now accepted method by which planets are formed is via the accretion of cold gas and dust in proto-planetary disks, that clump together to form larger and larger objects. The image was obtained with the VLT's SPHERE instrument in polarised light.

"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.

These types of spirals around young stars are indicative of newly forming planets and are created as these planets give the gas a "kick", which in turn creates a disturbance of the swirling disc and forms a wave. Observations with the Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array (ALMA) showed rough spiral shapes in 2017, which might be sought after signatures of the formation of planets.

"It corresponds to the connection of two spirals - one winding inwards of the planet's orbit, the opposite increasing outwards - which be a part of on the planet location".

ESO is in the works of constructing the 127-foot Extremely Large Telescope, which will pull technology from both the ALMA and SPHERE to study extrasolar worlds.

With a whopping 39-metre compared with the 8.2 metre diameter and four movable 1.8 metre diameter Auxiliary Telescopes of the VLT, the optical/near-infrared behemoth observatory should be able to see directly and more precisely how the dynamics of the gas contributes to the formation of planets, Boccaletti concludes.

Planets outside the solar system are referred to as exoplanets.

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