AB Aurigae is a little star enveloped in gas and dust, known as a protoplanetary disk. The conditions are great for creating a new planet, and astronomers may have just captured one in the making! For the first time ever!
The host star, AB Aurigae, is more than double the Sun’s mass and lies only 520 light years away in the constellation Auriga.
A few years ago, the ALMA observatory took this coloured image of the dust ring (red) and gas spiral arms (blue) of AB Aurigae. The spirals hinted to planet formation, but it was a bit unclear at the time.
A more recent image seems to confirm the planet, and looks absolutely stunning!
At the centre of the dust and gas disk is the star, but also a little twisted structure which is the planet. In the image below, there’s a little pitchfork looking structure near the centre. In the middle of the pitchfork is a glowing blob. That’s the planet!
The planet-to-be currently has an orbit comparable to that of Neptune, but the planet is so new that nothing else can really be said about it. I’m just excited to see more amazing astronomical processes being captured!