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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Earth-like planets orbiting binary stars found... destroyed

As exciting and frustrating as it sounds: the first evidence of planets oribiting a double stellar system and one of the few so far on the very difficult to detect terrestrial planets happens to be a terrible collision of two of these planets.

From Science Daily: Two Planets Suffer Violent Collision.

The US astronomers had been studying a dust ring around one of the stars in this binary system, thinking it might be the signature of a young solar system in formation. But they now think that the dust ring has actually been caused by a brutal crash of two Earth-like rocky planets, after finding that the stars are actually too old to represent a young forming stellar system.

Artist rendering of the collision

The closest similar incident ever happening in our vicinity was possibly the collision that created the Moon, but that happened when the Solar system and Earth itself were very young. Currently the odds of something similar happening here are nimious.

I wonder if the fact that these ill-fated objects are part of a binary star system may have increased the odds of such outcome, maybe because of the gravitational unstability caused by the other star...

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