New Planet Revealed in Groundbreaking Photo

Please welcome PDS 70b, a new gas giant exoplanet, whose birth was captured by scientists in a groundbreaking image.

A stunning new image published by the European Southern Observatory in Chile has shed new light on how planets are born. As shown in the photo above, the birth of the planet PDS 70b from the disk gas and dust surrounding dwarf star PDS 70 was captured by the ESO’s Very Large Telescope. Using a powerful planet-hunting instrument on the telescope called SPHERE, an international team of scientists was able to study the newborn planet at a crucial point in its development. 

The planet can be seen just right of center inside the disk (the very bright blur). The black spot at the center is actually light the scientists blocked out in order to observe PDS 70b, which is located in the Centaurus constellation in our southern sky (meaning you can see it best in the Southern Hemisphere). Its star, PDS 70, is located 370 light-years from Earth and is 5.4 million years old. The planet is about 1.9 billion miles away from its star, which is roughly the same distance between Uranus and our Sun.

SPHERE also allowed the scientists to study many of PDS 70b’s properties by “measuring the brightness of planet at different wavelengths.” PDS 70b is a young gas giant with “a mass a few times that of Jupiter.” With a temperature of 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit, PDS 70b is much hotter than any planet in our Solar System. The planet also has a cloudy atmosphere.

This image is a big step forward for the study of planetary evolution and how planets are formed. It could even help us learn more about how our own planet was shaped by these “protoplanetary” disks of gas and dust. 

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If you want to learn more about PDS 70b, check out two reports published by research teams at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany about the planet’s discovery and its properties. Oh, and let’s all wish PDS 70b a very happy birthday!