Four groups of astronomers have discovered infant planets forming in the disk of gas and dust around three different stars. This discovery is the first time that scientists have observed baby exoplanets during their formation. More info at ARS Technica.
The new observations directly show a companion orbiting in the disk around young star T Chamaeleontis (T Cha), the first time a potential planet has been seen mid-formation. The young stars LkCa15 and AB Auriga also have Saturn-like rings with gaps in the middle, indicating the presence of at least one planet.
“We think we’re seeing the baby photos of a planetary system that is just forming, which in fact may be quite similar to our own solar system at a younger age,” said astronomer Christian Thalmann of the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany, lead author of a paper in Astrophysical Journal Letters describing LkCa 15. “But with a big ‘may’ there.”
An infant star forms from a collapsing cloud of dust and gas and gathers a dense, flat disk of material that rotates with the star like a record album.