Eye of Sauron image glows after scientists find discs around alien planet

Scientists have released an image showing a circumstellar disc, and within it a new planet that has its own moon-forming disc.

The circumplanetary disk, surrounds the exoplanet PDS 70c which is one of two colossal Jupiter-like planets orbiting a star nearly 400 light-years away, reports the European Southern Observatory.

Astronomers have captured the incredible image of the disk and new planet which together bears a striking resemblance to the hypnotic, and quite terrifying, Eye of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Scientists had discovered evidence of a “moon-forming” disc around this exoplanet before but it was difficult to what it was against the surrounding environment until now.

Miriam Keppler, researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany and one of the co-authors of the study said: "More than 4000 exoplanets have been found until now, but all of them were detected in mature systems.

"PDS 70b and PDS 70c, which form a system reminiscent of the Jupiter-Saturn pair, are the only two exoplanets detected so far that are still in the process of being formed.”

PDS 70b and PDS 70c, the two planets making up the system, were first discovered using ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

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The planets unique nature means they have been observed with other telescopes and instruments many times since.

PDS 70b does not show clear evidence of having a disc suggesting it was starved of dust during its evolution.

Despite the similarity with the Jupiter and Saturn planets the disc around PDS 70c is about 500 times larger than Saturn's rings.

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The new find was found using the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimeter Array (ALMA) which is located in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile.

"Our work presents a clear detection of a disc in which satellites could be forming," explained Dr Myriam Benisty, who led the research published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

"Our ALMA observations were obtained at such exquisite resolution that we could clearly identify that the disc is associated with the planet and we are able to constrain its size for the first time," Dr Benisty added.

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