This is the first photo of a planet being born


Scientists have long understood that planets — like humans — have to be born into the universe. Now, researchers have finally managed to photograph it happening for the first time in history.

Capturing a planet’s birth is exceptionally difficult because it’s often too far away to see on a telescope. But in a recent feat, scientists used an instrument called Sphere to capture it at last — a great win after they had started looking for a possible baby planet in 2012.

A. Müller et al/European Southern Observatory (ESO)

The footage is important because, up until this point, scientists largely believed in a dominant theory for planet formation that they were unable to confirm. A very simplified version of that theory goes something like this: Smaller clouds of gas and dust fall apart within a larger cloud, called a nebula. As the cloud collapses, it spins and compresses until pieces of it attach to each other, like when “household dust [sticks] together into dust bunnies,” as NASA put it. Eventually, that “dust bunny” attracts more space materials until it grows bigger and bigger and forms a planet.

For video game fans, it sounds strikingly similar to what happens to the spheres of junk beamed into the sky in the Katamari series.

A. Muller et al/European Southern Observatory (ESO)

The new planet is named PDS 70b because it was caught forming a dusty disc around a star called PDS 70. Scientists described PDS 70b as a “giant gas planet with a mass a few times that of Jupiter” that is “much hotter than any planet in our own solar system.”

Welcome to the universe, PDS 70b.