UH astronomer discovers forming planet - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

UH astronomer discovers forming planet

Posted: Updated:
Artist’s conception of the area near the planet LkCa 15 b. Source: Karen L. Teramura, UH IfA. Artist’s conception of the area near the planet LkCa 15 b. Source: Karen L. Teramura, UH IfA.

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - University of Hawaii astronomer Adam Kraus has captured an image of a planet in the process of forming around its star.

Astronomers are calling the 'new' planet LkCa 15 b. 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."

Kraus will be presenting the discovery at an Oct. 19 meeting at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

The discovery of LkCa 15 b began as a survey of 150 young dusty stars in star-forming regions. That led to the more concentrated study of a dozen stars.

"We realized we had uncovered a super Jupiter-sized gas planet, but that we could also measure the dust and gas surrounding it. We'd found a planet at its very beginning" said Kraus.

Drs. Kraus and Ireland plan to continue their observations of LkCa 15 and other nearby young stars in their efforts to construct a clearer picture of how planets and solar systems form.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.