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  Topic: Science Break, Selected Shorts< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  

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Joined: Jan. 2006

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

At Science:

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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