A Star Is Born? No, But Maybe A Planet - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

A Star Is Born? No, But Maybe A Planet

Posted: Updated:

WALLSTREETJOURNAL.COM - Astronomers have spotted what they believe is a planet in the violent process of being born in another solar system, an event that may shed light on how planets come into being.

An international team of researchers said the so-called protoplanet has a mass that appears to be at least the size of Jupiter, and perhaps two to three times its size. It is located about 335 light years from Earth, within the Milky Way. That isn't too far in cosmic terms; the Milky Way itself is about 100,000 light years across.

"If we are correct, this is the first time we are seeing a planet forming inside its natal environment," said Sascha Quanz, an astronomer at the Swiss university ETH Zurich and leader of the team. The findings are reported in Astrophysical Journal Letters, a scientific publication.

There are two leading theories of planet formation. Under one, small dust grains circling around a parent star collide, get larger and larger, and under the force of gravity develop into a much larger object. Over hundreds of thousands of years, this object accumulates enough material to become a planet. That is how the planets of our solar system most likely formed.

Another theory suggests that material surrounding a young star can undergo gravitational collapse under its own mass. This causes debris to clump together, creating a planet in just a few thousand years. It isn't clear how the latest suspected protoplanet is being formed.

If it holds up, the latest finding would be one of the first direct observations of the very early stages of a planet's birth. Dr. Quanz and colleagues based their discovery on observations by a high-resolution infrared camera linked to a telescope located in Chile's Atacama Desert.

The telescope was pointed at a young star, HD 100546, about 2.5-times the size of our sun. Astronomers were interested in the star because the disk of materials around it showed certain asymmetries. "It's a good indication that something might be hiding or forming in the disk," said Dr. Quanz.

The infrared imagery revealed a little bright blob in the disk, suggesting an entity emitting radiation. When the picture of the blob was laid over an image of the asymmetry, they coincided perfectly. The conclusion: The blob was an object embedded in the material around the star, suggesting a nascent planet.

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • THROWBACK THURSDAY: Monsters of ROCK Comes To Spokane In 1988!

    THROWBACK THURSDAY: Monsters of ROCK Comes To Spokane In 1988!

    Thursday, April 17 2014 11:10 AM EDT2014-04-17 15:10:48 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Throwback Thursday. 1988. Monsters of Rock. Joe Albi Stadium. Need we say more? One of the biggest rock and roll tours of the year made a stop in Spokane, bringing a number of notable bands including Van Halen, Metallica, Scorpions, Dokken and Kingdom Come.>>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Throwback Thursday. 1988. Monsters of Rock. Joe Albi Stadium. Need we say more? One of the biggest rock and roll tours of the year made a stop in Spokane, bringing a number of notable bands including Van Halen, Metallica, Scorpions, Dokken and Kingdom Come.
    >>
  • UPDATE: PHOTOS Of Sex Offenders Who Live In Kootenai County

    UPDATE: PHOTOS Of Sex Offenders Who Live In Kootenai County

    Wednesday, February 26 2014 6:50 AM EST2014-02-26 11:50:17 GMT
    KHQ.COM - Do you know who lives next to you, or in your neighborhood? KHQ has teamed up with local law enforcement agencies to keep you updated on sex offenders that may be living close to you. The latest photos are from the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office website. All of the offenders have served their time and are not wanted by authorities.>>
    KHQ.COM - Do you know who lives next to you, or in your neighborhood? KHQ has teamed up with local law enforcement agencies to keep you updated on sex offenders that may be living close to you. The latest photos are from the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office website.>>
  • LOOKING FOR A HOME? 10 Homes For Sale In Spokane For $125,000

    LOOKING FOR A HOME? 10 Homes For Sale In Spokane For $125,000

    Thursday, April 17 2014 2:47 PM EDT2014-04-17 18:47:10 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Spring is a popular time to purchase and sell a home. Here are 10 homes for sale in Spokane for $125,000. These homes were found on www.WindermereSpokane.com. If you would like more information on any of these homes or would like to schedule a tour, contact your real estate agent with the correct MLS number.>>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - Spring is a popular time to purchase and sell a home. Here are 10 homes for sale in Spokane for $125,000. These homes were found on www.WindermereSpokane.com. If you would like more information on any of these homes or would like to schedule a tour, contact your real estate agent with the correct MLS number.>>
  • National NewsMore>>

  • NEW DETAILS: Survivors Describe Escape From Sinking Ferry

    NEW DETAILS: Survivors Describe Escape From Sinking Ferry

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 3:52 PM EDT2014-04-16 19:52:10 GMT
    MOKPO, South Korea (AP) - Survivors of a ferry sinking off the coast of South Korea are describing how they jumped into the frigid water wearing life jackets and then swam to a nearby rescue boat.>>
    MOKPO, South Korea (AP) - Survivors of a ferry sinking off the coast of South Korea are describing how they jumped into the frigid water wearing life jackets and then swam to a nearby rescue boat.>>
  • UPDATE: Biden: Boston Marathon Survivors Are Inspiration

    UPDATE: Biden: Boston Marathon Survivors Are Inspiration

    Tuesday, April 15 2014 2:21 PM EDT2014-04-15 18:21:34 GMT
    BOSTON (AP) - Vice President Joe Biden says the courage shown by Boston Marathon survivors and those who lost loved ones is an inspiration for other Americans dealing with loss and tragedy.>>
    BOSTON (AP) - Vice President Joe Biden says the courage shown by Boston Marathon survivors and those who lost loved ones is an inspiration for other Americans dealing with loss and tragedy.>>
  • Cattle Battle: BLM To Pursue Effort To End Dispute With Rancher

    Cattle Battle: BLM To Pursue Effort To End Dispute With Rancher

    Monday, April 14 2014 10:08 AM EDT2014-04-14 14:08:14 GMT
    NEVADA, (AP) - A day after blinking in a showdown on the range, federal land managers pledged to pursue efforts to resolve a conflict with a southern Nevada rancher who has refused to pay grazing fees for 20 years. Bureau of Land Management spokesman Craig Leff said Sunday that the agency would continue to try to resolve the matter.>>
    NEVADA, (AP) - A day after blinking in a showdown on the range, federal land managers pledged to pursue efforts to resolve a conflict with a southern Nevada rancher who has refused to pay grazing fees for 20 years. Bureau of Land Management spokesman Craig Leff said Sunday that the agency would continue to try to resolve the matter.
    >>