Bam! Scientists Watch Distant Exoplanet Collision

Astronomers love a hot mess — at least when it can tell them more about how solar systems work.

Meghan Bartels |

When scientists studied a star system called BD +20 307 a decade ago, they saw a lot of warm dust. And when they checked in on the neighborhood again using SOFIA, an airplane-based telescope run by NASA and its German counterpart, scientists saw even more warm dust. That could be a sign that astronomers are seeing the residue of a fairly recent dustup.

An artist’s depiction of a collision between two exoplanets. (Image: © NASA/SOFIA/Lynette Cook)

„This is a rare opportunity to study catastrophic collisions occurring late in a planetary system’s history,“ Alycia Weinberger, a staff scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., and the lead investigator on the project, said in a NASA statement. „The SOFIA observations show changes in the dusty disk on a timescale of only a few years.“

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