Astronomers may have, for the first time, directly imaged a planet still in the process of formation, gathering material from a debris disk surrounding its parent star.
First: Holy Haleakala!
Second: note the use of the word "may". It looks to me like it’s real, though.
Third: Oh, you want to see the picture? Well, let me do the honors:
The alleged planet, called LkCa 15b, is the blue spot in the image. The red shows material which is most likely accumulating onto the planet itself, building up its mass. The central star isn’t seen in this image because its light has been blocked out so the fainter material near it can be seen. The star’s position is marked by the star icon.
The image is in the infrared, taken using the monster Keck telescope in Hawaii. What’s shown in red is light at a wavelength of 3.7 microns (roughly five times what the human eye can see) and blue is from 2.1 microns, about three times what we can see. Warm material around the star is best seen at these wavelengths. If this is a planet, it’s at a temperature of about 500 – 1000 K (440° – 1340° F), and has a mass roughly six times that of Jupiter, or about 2000 times the Earth’s mass.
So is it a planet? Read More