Scientists have located what they believe to be the first direct observation of a planet forming in its stellar womb of gas and dust. Using ESO’s Very Large Telescope, Sascha Quanz and an international team of scientists has been studying the young star HD 100546 and its surrounding gas. They were surprised when they spotted a protoplanet, about 10 times further out than the Earth is from the sun, still being formed. The discovery is exciting for several reasons. Firstly, the youthful planet and its star are relatively nearby to earth at 335 light-years away. But even more importantly, “if [the] discovery is indeed a forming planet, then for the first time scientists will be able to study the planet formation process and the interaction of a forming planet and its natal environment empirically at a very early stage.” Current understanding of protoplanet formation relies heavily on mathematically based theories and computer models. Scientists note that the results of the study require follow-up observations to confirm the existence of a protoplanet.