the miracle of life

Astronomers Witness the Birth of Baby Planets for the First Time

Baby planets form around a young star 430 light-years from Earth. Illustration: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Scientists are finally beholding the miracle of life – in space.

A couple of baby proto-planets are orbiting a star some 430 light-years from Earth, the L.A. Times reports, and could provide scientists with new knowledge of planet development.

We are unambiguously witnessing planet formation,” the team of astronomers and astrophysicists from the University of Arizona wrote in a study on Wednesday. Scientists have so far identified around 1,900 mature planets in the galaxy and all have been big enough to dim the light of surrounding stars during orbit. Not so with these new baby planets.

Scientists first identified a mysterious object in the vicinity of a 2-million-year-old star in the Taurus constellation called LkCa 15 several years ago, according to Science News. The object was significantly less bright in comparison, and after closely examining the area using a technique called non-redundant masking, a team of researchers was able to capture a few high-resolution images showing two bodies orbiting the star.

The bodies, LkCa 15b and LkCa 15c, are about 5 to 10 times larger than Jupiter, scientists report, and a third object, identified as LkCa 15d, gave off a weaker signal that the team couldn’t be sure was real. But they’re positive that at least the first two bodies are planets-in-progress, forming through an “accretion disk model,” where an object amasses the gas and dust particles around it.

It’s the first time scientists have actually seen the dust clouds indicating development of a baby planet, Popular Science reports. They plan to observe the planets’ development in hopes of identifying patterns or growth spurts.

No word yet on whether peach fuzz and acne are visible from 430 light-years away.

Astronomers Witness Birth of Two Baby Planets