Washington DC: For the first time, scientists are now able to directly study the planet formation process at a very early stage.
Astronomers of PlanetS have confirmed the existence of a young gas giant planet that is still embedded in the gas and dust rich disk around its young host star.
For a full night a high-resolution infrared camera at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile observed only one object although telescope time at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) on Mount Paranal is very precious.
Analyzing the dataset collected by the instrument called NACO, an international team led by Sascha Quanz of ETH Zurich was able to confirm its earlier hypothesis: a giant planet candidate is orbiting the star named HD 100546.
The object is still in the process of formation and possibly surrounded by a disk from which it continues gathering material, explains researcher Sascha Quanz.
How, where and when giant planets form in the disks around young stars was so far mainly addressed via theoretical considerations and computer simulations, but now they have a 'laboratory' from which they can obtain empirical information, added Quanz.
HD 100546 is a young star. In astronomical terms this means that the object is "only" five to ten million years old. Located 335 light-years from Earth it is a relatively nearby cosmic neighbor.
The study is published in the Astrophysical Journal.