HomeEditor's PickThe Very Large Telescope observes the birth of a young planet

The Very Large Telescope observes the birth of a young planet

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Around the young star AB Aurigae, there is a dense disc of dust and gas in which astronomers have identified a spiral structure with a “twist” that marks the site where a planet could form. The observed feature could be the first direct evidence of the birth of a world.

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We have to look at very young systems to really capture the moment when planets form“, says Anthony Boccaletti. But until now astronomers have not been able to acquire sufficiently sharp and deep images of these young records to find the “turning point” that marks the point where a planet could be born.

The new images show an extraordinary spiral of dust and gas around AB Aurigae, located 520 light-years from Earth. As the planet revolves around the central star, a spiral arm forms, according to observations of the AB Aurigae system made a few years ago with the Atacama Large Millimeter / submillimeter Array (ALMA).

Instead, with the SPHERE instrument of ESO’s Very Large Telescope, astronomers were able to see the weakest light of the small specks of dust and emissions from the internal drive; thus they confirmed the presence of the spiral arms detected for the first time by ALMA and also identified another remarkable feature: a “twist”, which indicates the presence of planetary formation in progress in the disc.

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