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First image of a planet being born captured

A University of Hawaii astronomer has captured the first direct image of a planet forming around a star. Dubbed LkCa 15 b, it is the youngest planet ever found.

world Updated: Oct 21, 2011 01:35 IST

A University of Hawaii astronomer has captured the first direct image of a planet forming around a star. Dubbed LkCa 15 b, it is the youngest planet ever found.

The university's Institute for Astronomy said Adam Kraus used telescopes on Mauna Kea island to find the planet. He was working with Michael Ireland from Macquarie University and the Australian Astronomical Observatory.

LkCa 15 b is 450 light years away from Earth and being built by dust and gas.

Scientists had not been able to see such young planets before because their parent solar systems' light outshines them.

Krause and Ireland used mirrors to cancel out the starlight and were able to see discs of dust near the planet.

"LkCa 15 b is the youngest planet ever found, about five times younger than the previous record holder," Kraus said. Kraus presented the discovery at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Centre on Wednesday after his research paper on the discovery with Ireland was accepted by the Astrophysical Journal.

"It's like we have an array of small mirrors," Kraus said. "We can manipulate the light and cancel out distortions." The technique allows the astronomers to remove the bright light of stars." "We realised we had uncovered a super Jupiter-sized gas planet but that we could also measure the dust and gas surrounding it. We'd found a planet, perhaps even a future solar system at its very beginning."