World Bulletin / News Desk
Scientists have found what they believe to be a planet-in-the-making that is still gathering material left over from the formation of its parent star.
The object appears as a faint blob nested inside a disk of gas and dust that swirls around a very young star known as HD 100546, located about 335 light years away in the constellation Musca, or The Fly, astronomers report in a paper published on Thursday in the Astrophysical Journal.
Light travels about 186,000 miles (299,792 km) per second, or about 6 trillion miles (10 trillion km) a year. The embedded object appears to be about the size of Jupiter, although it is about 68 times farther away from its parent star than Earth is from the sun. At that distance, the object takes 360 years to complete one orbit around its star.
Jupiter, by comparison, orbits about five times farther from the sun than Earth and completes an orbit in just under 12 years. Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, is more than 300 times the size of Earth.
If confirmed, HD 100546's planet would be the first of more than 800 extrasolar planets and more than 2,000 candidate planets found while it was still in the formation phase.
"So far, planet formation has mostly been a topic tackled by computer simulations," lead researcher Sascha Quanz, with ETH Zurich's Institute for Astronomy in Switzerland, said in a statement.
"If our discovery is indeed a forming planet, then for the first time scientists will be able to study the planet-formation process," he said.
Researchers picked out the object after analyzing more than 35,000 near-infrared images of the star's disk taken by the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope array in Chile.
Additional observations are needed to rule out that the light source is coming from a background object. The newly found object, known as HD 100546 b, could also be a fully formed planet that was gravitationally elbowed out of a position closer to the star by sibling planets.
There already is evidence HD 100546 b is not alone. Astronomers previously found what is believed to be an extremely large planet orbiting HD 100546 about six times farther away than Earth orbits the sun. The planet, which is in a gap in the star's dust disk, is 10 times closer to its parent star than the newly found object.
"If confirmed, HD100546 b would be a unique laboratory to study the formation process of a new planetary system, with one giant planet currently forming in the disk and a second planet possibly orbiting in the disk gap," the researchers wrote in their paper.
((links to images: http://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1310d/http://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1310c/
Ghana is currently hosting a two-day Sub-Saharan Africa Solar Conference organized by independent business media company Magenta Global.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said on Wednesday he would continue and expand the NYPD Twitter campaign a day after it backfired, triggering an outpouring of negative images
Deals on connections that happen before they reach the user, known as interconnection agreements, are outside of their scope.
Rousseff spoke at a global conference that she convened on how to govern a safer, less U.S.-centered Internet after revelations that she and other world leaders had been spied upon by the NSA
The arrests came as Cambodia prepares its first Cyber Crime law, a draft of which has been criticised as contains measures meant to silence criticism of government.
City-killer asteroids are forecast to strike about once every 100 years, but the prediction is not based on hard evidence.
The two-day Net Mundial conference in Sao Paulo will discuss cyber security and how to safeguard privacy and freedom of expression on the Internet, as well as the shape of a future international body
Though the overall number of spying incidents studied tripled to 511 from total in the 2013 Verizon report, most of that increase is due to the addition of new data sources
There were no reports of damage but the ball of fire raised eyebrows after a meteorite crashed to Earth near the Russian city of Chelyabinsk
NASA officials had planned to crash the spacecraft into the moon, after it transmitted its final batch of data.
The discovery is the closest scientists have come so far to finding a true Earth twin
An ambitious project in Turkey's south could see a pioneering clean energy project.
Depending on local weather conditions, the eclipse was visible across a swath of the United States
Google and Facebook have been competing in innovative ways to increase internet access globally and tap into previously untouched markets.
A 14-year-old Dutch girl who sent a terror threat to American Airlines as a Twitter “joke” has been arrested by police in Rotterdam