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Pine's team discovered a planet an estimated 39 billion kilometers (24 million miles) from infant star HD 163296, while the other team, led by University of MI astronomer Richard Teague, located two planets roughly 12 billion and 21 billion kilometres (7.4 billion and 13 billion miles) from the star.

Scientists have found a trio baby planets using a new technique of spotting unusual gas motion around developing stars. They looked for a particular kind of light that is emitted by the movement of carbon monoxide - which allows them to understand how the gas in the disk is churning around.

It's the first time the $1.4 billion Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) telescope has discovered new planets, thanks to a special technique to help hunt them down.

With that idea, the group, which included two independent teams, analyzed the protoplanetary disk of a young star sitting in the constellation of Sagittarius named HD 163296.

These gaps in the rings of gas and dust could be used by forming planets. "Through ultra-high resolution work the image on ALMA, this completely new approach can help to detect some of the youngest planets in our Galaxy", says Richard Teague, an astronomer from the University of MI and principal author of the second article. Instead, they saw disturbances in the gas.

All three exoplanets reside within the protoplanetary disk, and that's how the researchers managed to find them. These discrete disturbances in a young star's gas-filled disk are caused by the presence of planets around it.

A team led by Pinte found a planet about 39 billion kilometres (24 billion miles) from the star while Teague's team found two planets 12 billion and 21 billion kilometres (7.5 billion and 13 billion miles) out. They are surrounded by a swirling disk of gas and dust, hiding objects like baby planets and making it hard for scientists to study how planetary systems form. A previous study of this particular star's disc shows that the gaps in the dust and gas overlap, suggesting that at least two planets have formed there.

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The federal agents believed the 74-year-old had stolen the artefacts (she was never charged and successfully sued the agents). "If you look at the Davis case, what Nasa is essentially saying is that lunar material in private hands is stolen property".

Other techniques for finding baby planets in the disks surrounding young stars are based on observations of the emission coming from a disk's dust particles.

"We still don't truly understand how planets form, so catching them at this earliest stage and being able to see what the actual mechanisms are that produce these giant planets is really going to help", Teague said.

"The precision is mind boggling", said co-author Dr Til Birnstiel of the University Observatory of Munich.

The technique used by Dr. Pinte and colleagues, which more directly measured the flow of the gas, is better suited to studying the outer portion of the disk.

These initial observations, however, merely provided circumstantial evidence and could not be used to accurately estimate the masses of the planets, noted Teague. Orbiting at distances of 83 and 137 times that between the sun and Earth, the planets' host star is actually significantly brighter than our own parent star.

This research was presented in two papers to appear in the same edition of the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

The system consists of three newly formed planets gravitating around a nearby star, dubbed HD 163296. "A Kinematic Detection of Two Unseen Jupiter Mass Embedded Protoplanets", by R. Teague et al.


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