Astronomers photograph the newborn planet

A team of Australian astronomers has published several images obtained using the ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT). They confirm the presence of an emerging exoplanet in the HD 169142 star system.

Protoplanetary disk around the star HD 169142. Source: Hammond et al.

HD 169142 is located 350 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Taurus. This is a very young star. Its age does not exceed 7 million years. HD 169142 is still surrounded by a massive disk consisting of dust gas. Its inner boundary runs at a distance of about 20 au from the star, the outer one at a distance of 250 au.

A few more years ago, the ALMA radio telescope detected a gap in the disk around HD 169142. Then astronomers suspected that it was associated with the presence of an emerging exoplanet. As it gains mass, it gradually clears its orbit, absorbing the matter of the disk, which leads to the formation of a gap.

In the course of new observations involving VLT, the researchers were able to confirm this theory. Analyzing the images taken by the SPHERE spectrograph, scientists found a compact source located at a distance of 37 au from the star (for comparison, Pluto‘s orbit passes at a distance of 30 AU from the Sun). It corresponds to an emerging gas giant.

In the future, the researchers plan to continue observations of HD 169142. They have especially high hopes for the James Webb Telescope. Its ability to capture infrared radiation may allow us to see previously unknown details of the formation of an exoplanet, as well as to detect other, as yet undiscovered bodies in this system.

According to

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