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Discovery News

This Massive Exoplanet Is Being Born Right Now

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The baby planet circles a very young, sun-like star located in a giant cloud of molecular gas 430 light-years from Earth in the constellation Taurus.

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Astronomers had previously noted a hefty gap in the disk of gas and dust surrounding the star, known as LkCa 15. They suspected the gravitational pull of an evolving planet had cleared out an orbital zone, similar to how some moons circling Saturn create gaps in its rings.

Now, a new series of observations adds key details of the planet-in-the-making, showing for the first time how it is feeding on hydrogen gas.

“This discovery has far-reaching implications for our understanding of the planet-forming process and of the properties of young planets,” Princeton University astrophysicist Zhaohuan Zhu wrote in a commentary in this week’s Nature.

 

 

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For the first time, astronomers have directly observed a planet in the making.

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Earth is in what’s called the habitable zone. It’s far enough from the sun that it doesn’t get fried, and close enough that it gets the best of its warmth. We like to think we’re special for this, but it turns out we might be pretty run of the mill.
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