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For first time, scientists spot an alien planet as it is being formed

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For first time, scientists spot an alien planet as it is being formed

The disk around AB Aurigae's young star, where ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) detected signs of birth on the planet, is seen in an image obtained with the VLT's SPHERE instrument under polarized light and launched on May 20, 2020. Near the center of the image, in the inner region of the disc, a & # 39; twist & # 39; (in very bright yellow) it is seen that scientists believe it marks the place where a planet is forming. ESO / Boccaletti et al / Brochure via REUTERS.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Astronomers have observed what appears to be a planetary maternity, looking for the first time inside a huge dense disk of gas and dust around a newly formed star, a planet in the process of being born.

This large young planet is forming around a star called AB Aurigae, which 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. . A light year is the distance that light travels in a year, 9.5 trillion kilometers.

The scientists used the Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile to locate a spiral structure inside the rotating disk around AB Aurigae generated by the presence of a planet. They detected a "twisting" pattern of gas and dust in the spiral structure, marking where the planet was coalescing.

“It takes several million years for a planet to be in its final stage, so birth is not well defined in time. However, we can say that we were probably able to catch a planet in the process of forming, ”said Paris Observatory astronomer Anthony Boccaletti, who led the research published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

More than 4,000 planets have been discovered orbiting stars beyond our solar system. Scientists are eager to learn more about how they are born as cold gas and dust consolidate on these disks around new stars.

The planet is located about 30 times farther from its star than the distance from Earth to the sun – about the distance from the planet Neptune in our solar system, said Boccaletti. It appears to be a large gaseous planet, not rocky like Earth or Mars, and may be more massive than the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter, added Boccaletti.

Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Sandra Maler

Our standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust principles.


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