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Telescope captures first image of a planet's birth

The transitional disk around the star LkCa 15. The hole in the center indicates an inner gap with radius of about 55 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Photo: Kraus & Ireland 2011.

LONDON (PTI): For the first time, astronomers have captured on telescope the birth of a planet around a Sun-like star some 457 light-years from Earth.

The fledgling gas-giant planet, dubbed LkCa 15 b, was found by Adam Kraus, a University of Hawaii astronomer, using the twin 10-metre Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea -- the world's largest optical/infrared telescopes.

It appears to be building itself from surrounding dust and gas as it orbits its host star and scientists say it could become a Jupiter-like gas giant, the Daily Mail reported.

"LkCa 15 b is the youngest planet ever found, about five times younger than the previous record holder," said Kraus while presenting his discovery at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

"This young gas giant is being built out of the dust and gas. In the past, you couldn't measure this kind of phenomenon because it's happening so close to the star. But, for the first time, we have been able to directly measure the planet itself as well as the dusty matter around it," he said.

According to the scientists, they used mirrors to "cancel out" starlight, as it's usually impossible to capture such "births" because the parent star's light outshines them.

"We realised we had uncovered a super Jupiter-sized gas planet, but that we could also measure the dust and gas surrounding it. We'd found a planet at its very beginning," Kraus added.


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