Photo: Karen L. Teramura, UH IfA.
University of Hawaii Astronomer Adam Kraus has photographed what appears to be a new planet being born. The planet, named LkCa 15 b, is a “protoplanet” that is expected to grown into a gas giant, similar to Jupiter.
Brian Murphy, Director of the Holcomb Observatory at Butler University, says the photograph shows a bright center with a disc of cosmic debris around it.
“Think of a disc of material,” he says, “that planets would form out of sort of like our solar system and inside that is a denser object, say Jupiter, with a disc of material that it‘s still forming out of so it‘s actually, they‘re seeing a planet being born right now.”
Murphy says the planet is mostly gas but also has dust in it which makes it easier to be photographed. He says the giant disc of material makes it easy for new planets to form.
Murphy says scientists are studying this planet to get an idea how our solar system formed. The new planet is about 450 light years away from earth.