A Star Is Born? No, But Maybe A Planet - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

A Star Is Born? No, But Maybe A Planet

Posted: Updated:

WALLSTREETJOURNAL.COM - Astronomers have spotted what they believe is a planet in the violent process of being born in another solar system, an event that may shed light on how planets come into being.

An international team of researchers said the so-called protoplanet has a mass that appears to be at least the size of Jupiter, and perhaps two to three times its size. It is located about 335 light years from Earth, within the Milky Way. That isn't too far in cosmic terms; the Milky Way itself is about 100,000 light years across.

"If we are correct, this is the first time we are seeing a planet forming inside its natal environment," said Sascha Quanz, an astronomer at the Swiss university ETH Zurich and leader of the team. The findings are reported in Astrophysical Journal Letters, a scientific publication.

There are two leading theories of planet formation. Under one, small dust grains circling around a parent star collide, get larger and larger, and under the force of gravity develop into a much larger object. Over hundreds of thousands of years, this object accumulates enough material to become a planet. That is how the planets of our solar system most likely formed.

Another theory suggests that material surrounding a young star can undergo gravitational collapse under its own mass. This causes debris to clump together, creating a planet in just a few thousand years. It isn't clear how the latest suspected protoplanet is being formed.

If it holds up, the latest finding would be one of the first direct observations of the very early stages of a planet's birth. Dr. Quanz and colleagues based their discovery on observations by a high-resolution infrared camera linked to a telescope located in Chile's Atacama Desert.

The telescope was pointed at a young star, HD 100546, about 2.5-times the size of our sun. Astronomers were interested in the star because the disk of materials around it showed certain asymmetries. "It's a good indication that something might be hiding or forming in the disk," said Dr. Quanz.

The infrared imagery revealed a little bright blob in the disk, suggesting an entity emitting radiation. When the picture of the blob was laid over an image of the asymmetry, they coincided perfectly. The conclusion: The blob was an object embedded in the material around the star, suggesting a nascent planet.

  • National NewsMore>>

  • NEW DETAILS: Survivors Describe Escape From Sinking Ferry

    NEW DETAILS: Survivors Describe Escape From Sinking Ferry

    Wednesday, April 16 2014 3:52 PM EDT2014-04-16 19:52:10 GMT
    MOKPO, South Korea (AP) - Survivors of a ferry sinking off the coast of South Korea are describing how they jumped into the frigid water wearing life jackets and then swam to a nearby rescue boat.More >>
    MOKPO, South Korea (AP) - Survivors of a ferry sinking off the coast of South Korea are describing how they jumped into the frigid water wearing life jackets and then swam to a nearby rescue boat.More >>
  • UPDATE: Biden: Boston Marathon Survivors Are Inspiration

    UPDATE: Biden: Boston Marathon Survivors Are Inspiration

    Tuesday, April 15 2014 2:21 PM EDT2014-04-15 18:21:34 GMT
    BOSTON (AP) - Vice President Joe Biden says the courage shown by Boston Marathon survivors and those who lost loved ones is an inspiration for other Americans dealing with loss and tragedy.More >>
    BOSTON (AP) - Vice President Joe Biden says the courage shown by Boston Marathon survivors and those who lost loved ones is an inspiration for other Americans dealing with loss and tragedy.More >>
  • Cattle Battle: BLM To Pursue Effort To End Dispute With Rancher

    Cattle Battle: BLM To Pursue Effort To End Dispute With Rancher

    Monday, April 14 2014 10:08 AM EDT2014-04-14 14:08:14 GMT
    NEVADA, (AP) - A day after blinking in a showdown on the range, federal land managers pledged to pursue efforts to resolve a conflict with a southern Nevada rancher who has refused to pay grazing fees for 20 years. Bureau of Land Management spokesman Craig Leff said Sunday that the agency would continue to try to resolve the matter.More >>
    NEVADA, (AP) - A day after blinking in a showdown on the range, federal land managers pledged to pursue efforts to resolve a conflict with a southern Nevada rancher who has refused to pay grazing fees for 20 years. Bureau of Land Management spokesman Craig Leff said Sunday that the agency would continue to try to resolve the matter.
    More >>
  • Top Stories from KHQTop StoriesMore>>

  • 3rd N. Spokane Fast Food Robbery In Three Days

    3rd N. Spokane Fast Food Robbery In Three Days

    Friday, April 18 2014 1:15 AM EDT2014-04-18 05:15:21 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash.- Spokane Police tell us they have taken two people of interest into custody following a robbery at the Shadle Park McDonald's. It's the third fast food restaurant robbery in the Spokane area in the last three days. The robbery happened at about 6 p.m. Thursday at the McDonald's near N. Belt St. and W. Wellesley Ave.More >>
    SPOKANE, Wash.- Spokane Police tell us they have taken two people of interest into custody following a robbery at the Shadle Park McDonald's. It's the third fast food restaurant robbery in the Spokane area in the last three days. The robbery happened at about 6 p.m. Thursday at the McDonald's near N. Belt St. and W. Wellesley Ave.More >>
  • Gruesome Murder Trial Continues In Spokane; Alex Rozier Reports

    Gruesome Murder Trial Continues In Spokane; Alex Rozier Reports

    Thursday, April 17 2014 8:35 PM EDT2014-04-18 00:35:52 GMT
    SPOKANE, WA. – The murder trial for suspected killer Daniel Arteaga continued at the Spokane County Courthouse on Thursday as one of the lead investigators took the stand discussing evidence found the night of Kim Schmidt’s death. Arteaga is on trial for the murder of Schmidt, a 34 year old mother he dated for more than 6 years.More >>
    SPOKANE, WA. – The murder trial for suspected killer Daniel Arteaga continued at the Spokane County Courthouse on Thursday as one of the lead investigators took the stand discussing evidence found the night of Kim Schmidt’s death. Arteaga is on trial for the murder of Schmidt, a 34 year old mother he dated for more than 6 years.More >>
  • The Isaac Foundation Helping Those Dealing With Autism

    The Isaac Foundation Helping Those Dealing With Autism

    Thursday, April 17 2014 8:31 PM EDT2014-04-18 00:31:07 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash. - New numbers from the Center For Disease Control and Prevention show more children are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
    More >>
    SPOKANE, Wash. - New numbers from the Center For Disease Control and Prevention show more children are being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. According to the CDC, autism spectrum disorder affects 1 in every 68 kids. There is no cure but therapy can help children with autism improve speech, motor skills and even their social interactions.
    More >>
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and KHQ. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.