What happens when exoplanets crash into each other?

Posted Wednesday, 23 October 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)More than 300 light-years from Earth, there's a double star system where evidence exists that two exoplanets, or planets outside of our solar system, recently collided. Astronomers used NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy to spot a warm dust and debris trail within the system, according to a release by NASA. SOFIA is a flying observatory consisting of a Boeing 747 modified to carry a telescope. The binary star system, where the stars are around a billion years old, is known as BD + 20 307. It was observed with NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope a decade ago, Those observations hinted at the presence of warm debris. In a system with stars this old, astronomers expected the debris would be cold. But the follow-up observations by SOFIA suggest that two rocky exoplanets collided. SOFIA was able to see the warm glow of the dust in infrared that other wavelengths of light wouldn't reveal. A study of the collision published this week in The Astrophysical Journal."The warm dust around BD +20 307 gives us a glimpse into what catastrophic impacts between rocky exoplanets might be like," said Maggie Thompson, lead study author and graduate student at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "We want to know how this system subsequently evolves after the extreme impact."Some scientists think that Earth's moon formed after Earth collided with a planetary body the size of Mars 4.5 billion years ago. These kinds of collisions can restructure a solar system. The current understanding for planet formation follows a specific order. Stars form from clouds of collapsing gas and dust. Then, a protoplanetary disk of leftover gas and dust surrounds the star. Planets form from this disk, using the leftover gas and dust that created the star to pull together solid material for planets. Any dust leftover from this process is either pulled back into the star or ejected from the system. So the presence of the warm dust around these stars was a strong indicator of an enormous collision between planets. "This is a rare opportunity to study catastrophic collisions occurring late in a planetary system's history," said Alycia Weinberger, lead investigator and staff scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science's Department of Terrestrial Magnetism. "The SOFIA observations show changes in the dusty disk on a timescale of only a few years."

Other articles published by CNN

Posted Monday, 25 May 2020 ‐ CNN

(CNN)Rwanda has introduced robots as part of its fight against coronavirus.With 314 confirmed cases of the virus as of May 22, the East African country has enlisted the help of five anti-epidemic robots to battle the virus. The robots were donated by the ...

Posted Monday, 25 May 2020 ‐ CNN

(CNN)It was a mouth-watering prospect for sports-starved fans everywhere. Four of the greatest athletes the world has ever known, on the golf course at the same time, offering us a glimpse of who they are when they aren't winning Major Championships and...

Posted Monday, 25 May 2020 ‐ CNN

(CNN)A Texas community hit by terrible tragedy months ago came together over the weekend to celebrate a survivor's first birthday.Paul Gilbert Anchondo was two months old when his parents died shielding him from a shooter at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart on ...

Posted Monday, 25 May 2020 ‐ CNN

(CNN)Several members of the graduating class at The Lovett School in Atlanta, Georgia, have tested positive for Covid-19, according to a letter from the school."The school has been notified by several Class of 2020 families that their students have...

Posted Monday, 25 May 2020 ‐ CNN

(CNN)Just when you thought you'd learned how to spell Grimes and Elon Musk's unusual baby name, they've gone and changed it.Earlier this month, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Musk announced the birth of the baby boy in a post on Twitter, revealing his son was...

Posted Monday, 25 May 2020 ‐ CNN

In this weekly column "Cross Exam," Elie Honig, a CNN legal analyst and former federal and state prosecutor, gives his take on the latest legal news. Post your questions below. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN. ...

Posted Monday, 25 May 2020 ‐ CNN

Rome (CNN)"The doctors were shocked. They said they had never seen anything like this," says Valentina Vigilante, recalling the terrifying day her 6-year-old son Nicolò was rushed into intensive care in Bergamo, northern Italy, as he struggled to...

Posted Monday, 25 May 2020 ‐ CNN

(CNN)Vanessa Bryant, wife of the late Kobe Bryant, shared a sweet moment this Memorial Day weekend -- a film of their baby daughter's first steps. In a video posted to Instagram, 11-month-old Capri stumbles across the room for the first time, into the...

Posted Monday, 25 May 2020 ‐ CNN

(CNN)With two barren peaks that rise only about 170 feet above sea level, the now extinct Pūhāhonu volcano in the Northwestern Hawaii Islands doesn't look like much. This is especially true since in the same archipelago, Mauna Loa towers over every...

Posted Monday, 25 May 2020 ‐ CNN

(CNN)Photos and video of Memorial Day weekend celebrations across the US showed plenty of people going to the beach and gathering on boardwalks, but not a lot of people social distancing or wearing masks. From Florida to Indiana and across the country to ...

Posted Monday, 25 May 2020 ‐ CNN

Hong Kong (CNN Business)An online grocery business backed by Asia's richest man is expanding to hundreds of cities across India — a move widely seen as a challenge to Amazon (AMZN) and FlipKart.JioMart, the grocery platform owned by Mukesh Ambani's Jio ...

Posted Monday, 25 May 2020 ‐ CNN

(Kaiser Health News)As states relax coronavirus restrictions, older adults are advised, in most cases, to keep sheltering in place. But for some, the burden of isolation and uncertainty is becoming hard to bear.This "stay at home awhile longer" advice...

Posted Monday, 25 May 2020 ‐ CNN

(CNN)As warm weather sends people outdoors, some are encountering tenacious pests with no respect for social distance. Forget staying 6 feet apart: Ticks go for blood in the hardest-to-reach places on the human body. Many of those ticks are infected with ...

Posted Monday, 25 May 2020 ‐ CNN

(CNN)At a glance, it may look like many Americans have long forgotten about the dangers of coronavirus.Crowds packed beaches in Florida, Maryland, Georgia, Virginia and Indiana over the weekend -- many venturing out without masks and others failing to...

Posted Monday, 25 May 2020 ‐ CNN

(CNN)At first glance, Shelley Allwang's cubicle looks just like any other office space.But alongside a pinboard full of tchotchkes and a photo of her dog, sits a story that reminds Allwang of the importance of her job, now more than ever. "The Boy and...