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November 5, 2008

Astronomers Find Embryonic Planet

Astronomers Find Embryonic Planet

An image taken from a computer simulation of the star, HL Tau, and its surrounding disk made of gas and rocky particles. In the model, a dense clump (seen here at top right) forms with a mass about 8 times the size of Jupiter at a distance from the star comparable to about 75 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun.

This dense clump is believed to be the youngest forming planet yet seen. It was discovered by a team of astronomers, led by Dr. Jane Greaves of the University of St Andrews, using radio observatories in the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as computer simulations.

Using a combination of the National Science Foundation-supported Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescopes in the U.S. and the MERLIN array of radio telescopes centered on Jodrell Bank in Cheshire, England, the team studied the disk of gas and rocky particles around the star HL Tau. The star is thought to be less than 100,000 years old (by comparison, the Sun is 4600 million years old) and lies in the direction of the constellation of Taurus at a distance of 520 light years.

To read more about this research, see the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh, press release, "Astronomers find Embryonic Planet." (Date of Image: 2008)

Credit: Greaves, Richards, Rice and Muxlow, 2008

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