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>>

  • Vietnam Sentences American Man To Death For Heroin

    Vietnam Sentences American Man To Death For Heroin

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 10:48 PM EDT2014-04-23 02:48:39 GMT
    HANOI, Vietnam (AP) - State media say a court in Vietnam has sentenced an American to death for heroin trafficking. The Liberated Saigon newspaper says Jason Dinh, 41, was convicted of trafficking 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of heroin at a one-day trial by Ho Chi Minh City's People's Court on Tuesday.More >>
    HANOI, Vietnam (AP) - State media say a court in Vietnam has sentenced an American to death for heroin trafficking. The Liberated Saigon newspaper says Jason Dinh, 41, was convicted of trafficking 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of heroin at a one-day trial by Ho Chi Minh City's People's Court on Tuesday.More >>
  • Family Sues N.J. District Over 'Under God' In Pledge Of Allegiance

    Family Sues N.J. District Over 'Under God' In Pledge Of Allegiance

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 10:21 PM EDT2014-04-23 02:21:31 GMT
    A family is suing a New Jersey school district, contending that the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance discriminates against atheist children.A family is suing a New Jersey school district, contending that the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance discriminates against atheist children.
    FREEHOLD, N.J. (AP) - A family is suing a New Jersey school district, contending that the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance discriminates against atheist children.More >>
    FREEHOLD, N.J. (AP) - A family is suing a New Jersey school district, contending that the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance discriminates against atheist children. The lawsuit against the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District was filed in state court last month and was announced yesterday by the American Humanist Association. More >>
  • South Korean Ferry: 113 Now Confirmed Dead, 190 Still Missing

    South Korean Ferry: 113 Now Confirmed Dead, 190 Still Missing

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 10:29 AM EDT2014-04-22 14:29:47 GMT
    JINDO, South Korea (AP) - As more bodies are recovered from a sunken South Korean ferry, the number of confirmed dead has reached 113, with about 190 people still missing. Meanwhile, four crew members who are accused of abandoning the ship and failing to protect the passengers have been arrested, three days after warrants were issued for the captain and two other crew members.More >>
    JINDO, South Korea (AP) - As more bodies are recovered from a sunken South Korean ferry, the number of confirmed dead has reached 113, with about 190 people still missing. Meanwhile, four crew members who are accused of abandoning the ship and failing to protect the passengers have been arrested, three days after warrants were issued for the captain and two other crew members.More >>
  • Top Stories from KHQTop StoriesMore>>

  • SPECIAL ELECTIONS RESULTS

    SPECIAL ELECTIONS RESULTS

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 1:02 AM EDT2014-04-23 05:02:05 GMT
    KHQ.COM- A special election was held on Tuesday with various items on the ballot, including library funding in Spokane Valley.More >>
    KHQ.COM- A special election was held on Tuesday with various items on the ballot, including library funding in Spokane Valley. Voters approved a measure to create a library capital facilities district, but rejected a bond to pay for two libraries and renovate an existing library. The bond requires a 60% super majority to pass.More >>
  • HAVE YOU SEEN THIS CHILD? Authorities Say Missing Burien Teen May Be In Spokane Area

    HAVE YOU SEEN THIS CHILD? Authorities Say Missing Burien Teen May Be In Spokane Area

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 11:11 PM EDT2014-04-23 03:11:42 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash.- The King County Sheriff's Office and The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children believe that a missing 15-year-old boy may be in the Spokane area. More >>
    SPOKANE, Wash.- The King County Sheriff's Office and The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children believe that a missing 15-year-old boy may be in the Spokane area. Authorities say 15-year-old Jacob Hays of Burien was last seen on April 3, 2014. He is white with brown hair and brown eyes. He's 5'10" and weighs 160 pounds. More >>
  • PHOTOS: KHQ Covers The President In Oso

    PHOTOS: KHQ Covers The President In Oso

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 10:54 PM EDT2014-04-23 02:54:29 GMT
    KHQ.COM - President Obama visited Oso one month after the deadly mudslide that so far has killed 41 people.More >>
    KHQ.COM - President Obama visited Oso one month after the deadly mudslide that so far has killed 41 people. KHQ's Kelsey Watts was in Everett where the President landed and KHQ's Sean Owsley was in Oso during the President's visit. They tweeted out, along with our field producer Josh, a lot of pictures during their coverage, and you can see them all in the slideshow attached to this story.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.