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Lou FCD



Posts: 5379
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Sep. 25 2008,18:13   

At Science:

Quote
Back when our own solar system was still forming, collisions between young planets were commonplace. In fact, astronomers think our moon is the product of an encounter between Earth and a Mars-sized body. But other than occasional and relatively small-scale smash-ups, such as Comet Shoemaker-Levy's 21 pieces pelting Jupiter in 1994, no nearby worlds have been destroyed for billions of years.

Not so in a binary star system called BD+20 307, located about 300 light-years away in the constellation Aries. In 2004, a team of astronomers discovered a huge cloud of dust encircling what they thought was a young star. Now measurements using NASA's orbiting Chandra X-ray Observatory and Tennessee State University's automated ground-based instrument have revealed two old stars, each about the same age as the sun, locked in close orbit. That means the dust must have come from a collision between two planetary bodies, a collision that must have happened within the past 100,000 years or so--or even more recently, says astronomer Benjamin Zuckerman of the University of California, Los Angeles, a member of the 2004 team who led the new study.


More at the link, paper in December's The Astrophysical Journal.

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