NASA Hubble Space Telescope is giving astronomers a rare look at a Jupiter-sized, still-forming planet. NASA shared an image of the exoplanet — a planet outside the Solar System — on the official social media pages of Hubble telescope. Called PDS 70b, the exoplanet can be seen feeding off material surrounding a young star. The American space agency said in the social media posts that it has taken this extrasolar five million years — “a pretty young age for a planet” — to grow to its current size.

The image shows a red, hot planet emanating electrical sparks, the other ends of which are connected to halo rings surrounding it as if the planet was using them as a tube to suck from the outside. “These Hubble observations help give us insight into how gas giant planets formed around our Sun 4.6 billion years ago,” NASA added in the post.

NASA explained that PDS 70b shows how it was building up mass from the material falling onto its giant world. The system – the exoplanet and the young start it is feeding off – is located 370 light-years from Earth in the constellation Centaurus. In a blog post, NASA said that these observations would offer insights into how giant planets formed around the Sun 4.6 billion years ago. Jupiter may have bulked up on a surrounding disk of infalling material. Its major moons would have also formed from leftovers in that disk, NASA stated in the blogpost.

NASA said more than 4,000 exoplanets have been documented until now but only about 15 have been directly imaged by telescopes. These planets are so far away and small that they simply appear like dots in the best photos. However, scientists say that are hopeful the Hubble’s new technique could open a completely new area of research.

“This planetary system gives us the first opportunity to witness material falling onto a planet. Our results open up a new area for this research,” Brendan Bowler of the University of Texas at Austin was quoted as saying in a NASA report.

The Hubble is a joint project between NASA and European Space Agency (ESA).


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