Images taken by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) are the deepest images of the AB Aurigae star system till date. The one on the right shows the inner region of the disc, including the bright yellow twist, circled in white. This twist lies at about the same distance from the AB Aurigae star as Neptune does from the sun.
Like past AB Aurigae pictures taken by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), this new photograph shows winding arms framing in the thick circle of residue and gas encompassing the star.
"We need to observe very young systems to really capture the moment when planets form". Amid the hypnotic spiral arms is a "twist", visible in the photo as a bright yellow region in the center that is thought to be a sign of a baby planet being born, according to Emmanuel Di Folco, a researcher at the Astrophysics Laboratory of Bordeaux in France, who participated in the study.
A whole new world? Stunning images of whirling space dust and gases may show birth of a planet
The now accepted method by which planets are formed is via the accretion of cold gas and dust in proto-planetary disks, that clump together to form larger and larger objects.
Astronomers said the dramatic scene offers a rare glimpse into the formation of a baby planet, which could help scientists better understand how new planets come to exist around stars.
"The twist and its apparent orbital motion could well be the first direct evidence of a connection between a protoplanet candidate and its manifestation as a spiral imprinted in the gas and dust distributions", the team concluded.More news: More than 2.4 million Americans filed for unemployment in the past week
The scientists' work was presented for publication in Astronomy & Astrophysics.
These types of spirals around young stars are indicative of newly forming planets and are created as these planets give the gas a "kick", which in turn creates a disturbance of the swirling disc and forms a wave. "And this was very exciting because the structure - the shape of this structure that we have detected - was exactly the shape that was predicted by theoretical models of planet formation".
Astronomers have obtained unusual new protoplanetary disk near-infrared images around the young star AB Aurigae.More news: Lori Loughlin, husband to plead guilty in college admissions scandal
These resulted in the darkest images of the star that we have seen, catching fainter light from tiny dust grains.
ESO says that when it completes construction of the 39-m (128-ft) Extremely Large Telescope, which is planned for 2025, it expects to be able to see more details of the exoplanet's formation and the dynamics driving the process.
"Thousands of exoplanets have been identified so far, but little is known about how they form", study lead author Anthony Boccaletti, of the Observatoire de Paris at the Université Paris Sciences et Lettres in France, said in the same statement.More news: Active shooter at Texas naval air station 'neutralised': US Navy
It has been involved in spotting the first image of an extrasolar planet as well as tracking individual stars moving around the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way.