Two Exoplanets Collided, And Scientists Are Now Studying The Outcomes Of The Event

Scientists are now studying the effects of the collision between two exoplanets that happened in the BD +20 307 double-star system located at over 300 light-years from Earth. A similar phenomenon occurred in our solar system when Earth collided with another planet, an event that resulted in the formation of the Moon.

Different from the previous theories on this planetary collision, the swirling debris of dust and rocks that orbit the double-star system is warm and not cold as believed. That suggests that the impact between the two exoplanets took place recently.

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope spotted the debris resulting from the collision of the two exoplanets about ten years ago. However, recently, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, SOFIA, observed even warmer debris, hinting that there is more dust than a decade ago. The study was published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Scientists Study The Outcomes Of The Collision Between Two Exoplanets

“The warm dust around BD +20 307 gives us a glimpse into what catastrophic impacts between rocky exoplanets might be like. We want to know how this system subsequently evolves after the extreme impact,” explained Maggie Thompson from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the study’s leading author.

The dust surrounded the double-star system could help scientists understand how exoplanetary systems form and evolve, while it might also reveal more details on the past of our own solar system. With the employment of the SOFIA instrument, scientists can uncover the mysteries of cosmic dust, such as the debris resulting from the collision of the two exoplanets of the BD +20 307 system.

“This is a rare opportunity to study catastrophic collisions occurring late in a planetary system’s history. The SOFIA observations show changes in the dusty disk on a timescale of only a few years,” explained Alycia Weinberger, and the lead investigator of SOFIA from the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism in Washington.