The first direct image of a planet in the process of forming around its star has been captured by University of Hawaii astronomer Adam Kraus.
What astronomers are calling LkCa 15 b, looks like a hot "protoplanet" surrounded by a swath of cooler dust and gas, which is falling into the still-forming planet. Images have revealed that the forming planet sits inside a wide gap between the young parent star and an outer disk of dust.
Kraus (UH Institute for Astronomy) and colleague Michael Ireland (Macquarie University and the Australian Astronomical Observatory) combined the power of the 10-meter Keck telescopes with a bit of optical sleight of hand.
"LkCa 15 b is the youngest planet ever found, about 5 times younger than the previous record holder," said Kraus. "This young gas giant is being built out of the dust and gas. In the past, you couldn't measure this kind of phenomenon because it's happening so close to the star. But, for the first time, we've been able to directly measure the planet itself as well as the dusty matter around it."