Nav: Home

Astronomers confirm existence of two giant newborn planets in PDS 70 system

May 18, 2020

Maunakea, Hawaii - New evidence shows the first-ever pictures capturing the birth of a pair of planets orbiting the star PDS 70 are in fact authentic.

Using a new infrared pyramid wavefront sensor for adaptive optics (AO) correction at W. M. Keck Observatory on Maunakea in Hawaii, a Caltech-led team of astronomers applied a new method of taking family photos of the baby planets, or protoplanets, and confirmed their existence.

The team's results are published in today's issue of The Astronomical Journal.

PDS 70 is the first known multiplanetary system where astronomers can witness planet formation in action. The first direct image of one of its planets, PDS 70b, was taken in 2018 followed by multiple images taken at different wavelengths of its sibling, PDS 70c, in 2019. Both Jupiter-like protoplanets were discovered by the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT).

"There was some confusion when the two protoplanets were first imaged," said Jason Wang, a Heising-Simons Foundation 51 Pegasi b Fellow at Caltech and lead author of the study. "Planet embryos form from a disk of dust and gas surrounding a newborn star. This circumstellar material accretes onto the protoplanet, creating a kind of smokescreen that makes it difficult to differentiate the dusty, gaseous disk from the developing planet in an image."

To help provide clarity, Wang and his team developed a method to disentangle the image signals from the circumstellar disk and the protoplanets.

"We know the disk's shape should be a symmetrical ring around the star whereas a planet should be a single point in the image," said Wang. "So even if a planet appears to sit on top of the disk, which is the case with PDS 70c, based on our knowledge of how the disk looks throughout the whole image, we can infer how bright the disk should be at the location of the protoplanet and remove the disk signal. All that's left over is the planet's emission."

The team snapped images of PDS 70 with the Near-Infrared Camera (NIRC2) on the Keck II telescope, marking first science for a vortex coronagraph installed in NIRC2 as part of a recent upgrade, combined with the Observatory's upgraded AO system consisting of a new infrared pyramid wavefront sensor and real-time control computer.

"The new infrared detector technology used in our pyramid wavefront sensor has dramatically improved our ability to study exoplanets, especially those around low-mass stars where planet formation is actively occurring," said Sylvain Cetre, software engineer at Keck Observatory and one of the lead developers of the AO upgrade. "It will also allow us to improve the quality of our AO correction for harder to image targets like the center of our galaxy."

This project benefited from the innovative infrared sensor that measures distortions in light caused by the Earth's atmosphere.

"New technology is a science multiplier," says Peter Kurczynski, Program Director at the National Science Foundation, which contributed funding to this project. "It enables investigations that were never before possible."

AO is a technique used to remove the atmospheric blurring that distorts astronomical images. With the new infrared pyramid wavefront sensor and real-time controller installed, Keck Observatory's AO system is able to deliver sharper, more detailed images.

"The PDS 70 imagery Jason's team captured was among the first tests of the scientific quality produced by Keck's pyramid wavefront sensor," said AO scientist Charlotte Bond, who played a key role in the design and installation of the technology. "It's exciting to see just how precise the new AO system corrects for the atmospheric turbulence of dusty objects like the young stars where protoplanets are expected to reside, allowing for the clearest, sharpest view of baby versions of our solar system."
-end-
The W. M. Keck Observatory Adaptive Optics Near-Infrared Pyramid Wavefront Sensor development was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation Advanced Telescopes and Instrumentation program and conducted in collaboration with the University of Hawaii and Caltech, as well as colleagues from the Subaru Telescope, Arcetri Astrophysical Observatory, and the Laboratoire d'Astrophysique de Marseille.

ABOUT ADAPTIVE OPTICS

W. M. Keck Observatory is a distinguished leader in the field of adaptive optics (AO), a breakthrough technology that removes the distortions caused by the turbulence in the Earth's atmosphere. Keck Observatory pioneered the astronomical use of both natural guide star (NGS) and laser guide star adaptive optics (LGS AO) and current systems now deliver images three to four times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope. Keck AO has imaged the four massive planets orbiting the star HR8799, measured the mass of the giant black hole at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy, discovered new supernovae in distant galaxies, and identified the specific stars that were their progenitors.

The original Keck II AO system was built with funding from the W. M. Keck Foundation and NASA. The new RTC will build on a laser guide star facility upgrade completed in 2016 with the generous financial support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, W. M. Keck Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and other Friends of Keck including The Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation, Change Happens Foundation, Mt. Cuba Astronomical Foundation, and Sanford and Jeanne Robertson.

ABOUT NIRC2

The Near-Infrared Camera, second generation (NIRC2) works in combination with the Keck II adaptive optics system to obtain very sharp images at near-infrared wavelengths, achieving spatial resolutions comparable to or better than those achieved by the Hubble Space Telescope at optical wavelengths. NIRC2 is probably best known for helping to provide definitive proof of a central massive black hole at the center of our galaxy. Astronomers also use NIRC2 to map surface features of solar system bodies, detect planets orbiting other stars, and study detailed morphology of distant galaxies.

ABOUT W. M. KECK OBSERVATORY

The W. M. Keck Observatory telescopes are among the most scientifically productive on Earth. The two, 10-meter optical/infrared telescopes on the summit of Maunakea on the Island of Hawaii feature a suite of advanced instruments including imagers, multi-object spectrographs, high-resolution spectrographs, integral-field spectrometers, and world-leading laser guide star adaptive optics systems.

Some of the data presented herein were obtained at Keck Observatory, which is a private 501(c) 3 non-profit organization operated as a scientific partnership among the California Institute of Technology, the University of California, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The Observatory was made possible by the generous financial support of the W. M. Keck Foundation.

The authors wish to recognize and acknowledge the very significant cultural role and reverence that the summit of Maunakea has always had within the Native Hawaiian community. We are most fortunate to have the opportunity to conduct observations from this mountain. For more information, visit: http://www.keckobservatory.org

ABOUT THE NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2020 budget of $8.3 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

W. M. Keck Observatory

Related Planets Articles:

Some planets may be better for life than Earth
Researchers have identified two dozen planets outside our solar system that may have conditions more suitable for life than our own.
Fifty new planets confirmed in machine learning first
Fifty potential planets have had their existence confirmed by a new machine learning algorithm developed by University of Warwick scientists.
Rogue planets could outnumber the stars
An upcoming NASA mission could find that there are more rogue planets - planets that float in space without orbiting a sun - than there are stars in the Milky Way, a new study theorizes.
Could mini-Neptunes be irradiated ocean planets?
Many exoplanets known today are ''super-Earths'', with a radius 1.3 times that of Earth, and ''mini-Neptunes'', with 2.4 Earth radii.
As many as six billion Earth-like planets in our galaxy, according to new estimates
There may be as many as one Earth-like planet for every five Sun-like stars in the Milky way Galaxy, according to new estimates by University of British Columbia astronomers using data from NASA's Kepler mission.
How planets may form after dust sticks together
Scientists may have figured out how dust particles can stick together to form planets, according to a Rutgers co-authored study that may also help to improve industrial processes.
Planets around a black hole?
Theoreticians in two different fields defied the common knowledge that planets orbit stars like the Sun.
The rare molecule weighing in on the birth of planets
Astronomers using one of the most advanced radio telescopes have discovered a rare molecule in the dust and gas disc around a young star -- and it may provide an answer to one of the conundrums facing astronomers.
How many Earth-like planets are around sun-like stars?
A new study provides the most accurate estimate of the frequency that planets that are similar to Earth in size and in distance from their host star occur around stars similar to our Sun.
The sun follows the rhythm of the planets
One of the big questions in solar physics is why the sun's activity follows a regular cycle of 11 years.
More Planets News and Planets Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.