When planets are in the process of being born, they grow from clouds of gas and dust surrounding their young star. However, penetrating this dense region to see planets coming to be, or to understand if planets outside of the dust are influencing them, is a difficult task.
To face this challenge, new research has found that some spiral patterns in the dust could, however, be evidence of huge planets swimming in its midst.
PHOTOS: Hubble's Latest Mind Blowing Cosmic Pictures
Scientists observed a protoplanetary disc around star MWC 758, using the ground-based Very Large Telescope. They found a spiral pattern that could suggest a planet lurking nearby. It's about 1.7 times the mass of our sun and only 8 million years old, a youngster compared to the sun's 4.5 billion years. The planet is believed to be outside the arms at about five times Neptune's equivalent distance from the sun.
"Our model with a 10 Jupiter mass planet is the best (and I would say the only) model so far to be able to account for all the major aspects of the arms as seen in the observations," wrote lead author Ruobing Dong, a NASA Hubble Fellow at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, in an e-mail to Discovery News. "Also, in such a young system, it is quite reasonable to believe there are giant planets currently forming. 10 Jupiter mass planets have been found around other (much older) stars, for example HR 8799."