Using the SPHERE instrument on the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT), a group of astronomers led by a team at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany (MPIA) captured the first-ever image of a planet forming around PDS 70, a young orange dwarf star 370 lightyears away from Earth.
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. The planet circles its parent star, PDS 70, at a distance of about 3.3 billion kilometres (2 billion miles), taking 120 years to complete one orbit.
The baby planet has a mass several times that of Jupiter, which is the biggest planet orbiting our Sun. Its' surface temperature is approximately 1000°C, which the European Southern Observatory (ESO) said in the statement was "much hotter than any planet in our own Solar System".
"The problem is that until now, most of these planet candidates could just have been features in the disc", explained Dr Keppler, who lead the team behind the discovery of the planet.
The worldwide team of researchers made the robust detection of the young planet, named PDS 70b, cleaving a path through the planet-forming material surrounding a young star. Without the mask, the light from planet would be overhwhelmed by PDS 70.
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The most widely accepted theory is that planets are created from the material left over when a star forms. The planet is blanketed in thick clouds, the team explained, and its surface is now revolving around a crisp 1000°C (1832°F), which is much hotter than any planet in the Solar System.
The image confirms newborn planets slice through these disks leaving holes and rings in their wake, researchers have said.
"Keppler's results give us a new window onto the complex and poorly-understood early stages of planetary evolution", André Müller, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, said in a news release. The SPHERE device - which stands for Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch instrument - studies exoplanets and discs around nearby stars using a technique known as high-contrast imaging.
SPHERE was able to measure the planet's brightness at different wavelengths, which enabled the researchers to determine the properties of its atmosphere.
'We needed to observe a planet in a young star's disc to really understand the processes behind planet formation.