Photos of the planet being born

The huge telescope (VLT) of the Paranal Observatory in Chile captures an image of an exoplanet forming around the star AB Aurigae.

A new photo, published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics on May 20, shows spiral arms forming inside a dense dust and gas disk surrounding AB Aurigae, a young star in the constellation of Earth, 520. light year. According to the European Space Research Organization in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), the operator of VLT, this structure is the first direct evidence of the birth of a new world.

The spiral structure around the star AB Aurigae (right is the enlarged view). Photo: VLT.

"Thousands of planets have been identified so far but few know how they formed," said lead author Anthony Boccaletti at the University of Paris Science et Lettres in France. "We need to look at very young systems if we want to capture the moment when a planet was born."

"The spiral structure is essentially a fledgling planet pushing dust gas inside the disc, causing disturbance in the form of waves, like a boat causing ripples on a lake surface," co-author of the paper. further explains Emmanuel Di Folco from France's Bordeaux Astrophysical Laboratory.

In the photo, the spiral arms are bright yellow and appear near the center of AB Aurigae. They are created by the planet bending and shaping waves as it travels around the star.

This structure was observed several years ago by the Atacama Large Millimeter / Subillim Array (ALMA) in Chile. Since then, Boccaletti and his colleagues have used SPHERE high-contrast optical equipment on VLT to track and record the sharpest images of this young star system.

Thanks to SPHERE's ability, the team was able to pinpoint exactly where the exoplanet was forming. "The intersection between the two spirals - one orbiting the planet's orbit and the other extending outward - is the position of the planet. That allows gas and dust to accumulate, causing the planet to grow. growing, "says astrophysicist Anne Dutrey from the Bordeaux Astrophysical Laboratory.

The distance between the planet and host star AB Aurigae is currently relatively far, 30 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun. The team hopes future observations with the assistance of the Extra Large Telescope (ELT), scheduled to launch in 2025, will provide more detailed information about the formation of the planet.