HONOLULU (AP) — Astronomers have captured the first direct image of a planet being born.
Adam Kraus, of the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy, said the planet is being formed out of dust and gas circling a 2-milion-year-old star about 450 light years from Earth.
The planet itself, based on scientific models of how planets form, is estimated to have started taking shape about 50,000 to 100,000 years ago.
Called LkCa 15 b, it's the youngest planet ever observed. The previous record holder was about five times older.
Kraus and his colleague, Michael Ireland from Macquarie University and the Australian Astronomical Observatory, used Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea to find the planet.
"We're catching this object at the perfect time. We see this young star, it has a disc around it that planets are probably forming out of and we see something right in the middle of a gap in the disc," Kraus said in a telephone interview.
Kraus presented the discovery Wednesday at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland. Kraus and Ireland's research paper on the discovery is due to appear in The Astrophysical Journal.
Observing planets while they're forming can help scientists answer questions like whether planets form early in the life of a star or later, and whether they form relatively close to stars or farther away.
Planets can change orbits after forming, so it's difficult to answer such questions by studying older planets.
"These very basic questions of when and where are best answered when you can actually see the planet forming, as the process is happening right now," Kraus said.
See "Link to External Source Article" below to read further.
And from The Urantia Book:
15:5.9 7. Cumulative Spheres. From the vast quantity of matter circulating in space, small planets may slowly accumulate. They grow by meteoric accretion and by minor collisions. In certain sectors of space, conditions favor such forms of planetary birth. Many an inhabited world has had such an origin.
Also, see "The Origin of Space Bodies"