Washington: Scientists have identified the youngest known planet outside our solar system and established that planets can grow up fast.
According to researchers, Beta Pictoris b is already fully formed even though it is probably just a few million years old.
The planet`s growth contradicts standard models that say such a planet should take ten million years to reach "adulthood."
Beta Pictoris b has now shattered the record once held by the planet BD 20 1790b, which clocked in at 35 million years old.
The new planet is also closer to its parent star, Beta Pictoris, than any other known planet outside our solar system - about the same distance as Saturn is from our sun.
Located about 63.4 light-years from Earth, Beta Pictoris is similar to our sun.
And like Beta Pictoris b, Beta Pictoris is relatively young - about 12 million years old, compared with the sun`s 4.5 billion years.
The planet`s existence was confirmed when the European Southern Observatory`s Very Large Telescope captured pictures last year.
The 2009 images show the young planet at a different point in its orbit than in a cryptic 2003 picture of the same star system.
The images seem to prove that the 2003 picture did in fact capture a planet and not a background star.
The infrared pictures make clear that Beta Pictoris b, which is about nine times more massive than Jupiter, is not only a real planet outside our solar system but also one that is fully formed one.
"It`s the first time we have direct proof of the time scale to form a planet-the first proof to say a planet can form rapidly," National Geographic quoted study leader Anne-Marie Lagrange of the Astrophysics Laboratory of Grenoble in France, as saying.
She added: "We are just now starting to be able to make direct images of exoplanets.
"We get very different information now, and in a few years`` time we may even be able to look inside the atmospheres of these planets."
The new study appears in the journal Science.