July 2 (UPI) -- The European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope has captured detailed imagery of a newborn planet carving a path through the protoplanetary disk surrounding PDS 70, a young dwarf star.
According to ESO, the observations -- captured by SPHERE, VLT's planet-hunting instrument -- included the "first confirmed image of a planet caught in the act of forming in the dusty disc surrounding a young star."
The telescope's SPHERE instrument was able to observe the exoplanet at multiple wavelengths, revealing the young planet's atmosphere.
The observations suggest PDS 70b is a giant gas planet several times more massive than Jupiter. The exoplanet boasts a surface temperature of roughly 1000 degrees Celsius, more than twice as hot as Mercury, the hottest planet in our solar system.
SPHERE uses multi-wavelength observations, a coronagraph and a technique called high-contrast imaging to filter out the signal of faint exoplanets circling bright stars. The coronagraph, which appears as a dark circle in the middle of the VLT image, works to block out the bright light of the host star -- emissions that would otherwise overwhelm the telescope's ability to photograph and analyze the characteristics of the protoplanetary disk.
The new image suggests the newborn planet has created sizable gaps in the protoplanetary disk.
"Keppler's results give us a new window onto the complex and poorly-understood early stages of planetary evolution," André Müller, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, said in a news release. "We needed to observe a planet in a young star's disc to really understand the processes behind planet formation."
Data revealing the chemical makeup of the exoplanet's atmosphere will help scientists model the gas giant's formation and early evolution.