Two planets collided in the Universe: scientists notice a unique phenomenon
Observing exoplanets, i.e. planets outside the solar system, is a very difficult task. They don't shine as brightly as stars, so you can only see them in the depths of space with the help of very sophisticated equipment. So any discovery related to these celestial bodies is a real event in astronomical science.
Such an event was the discovery of not even the planets themselves, but the fragments of two huge icy objects that orbited a distant Sun-like star and collided with each other. Live Science writes about it.
A NASA spacecraft that monitors the sky for asteroid threats was able to detect the traces of the collision. It was he who recorded the bright flash caused by the collision of the planets. Thanks to it, it was also possible to detect the resulting dust cloud. It was so large and dense that it covered the surface of the star and obscured its light.
The event took place near a star called ASASSN-21qj. It is about 3,600 light years away from Earth. The intensity of the light from the collision doubled in the infrared range, and three years later it decreased to visible light. An enthusiastic astronomer noticed this.
"An astronomer on social media noted that the star had become brighter in the infrared more than a thousand days before optical fading. That's when I realized that this was an unusual event," said study leader and researcher at Leiden University Matthew Kenworthy. He even called the data a complete surprise.
It is known that scientists have been monitoring ASASSN-21qj for two years. Of course, they also recorded its brightness. The results of these observations were published in the journal Nature on October 11. The scientists modeled how such a collision could have occurred. They used a computer to simulate the initial impact and then the scattering of the particles ejected as a result of the collision. This showed that the planets ASASSN-21qj probably merged into a single body after the impact.
The scientists also suggested how the debris cloud could have spread outward from the impact site. It would have taken three years for the star to close in so that it would be dimmed for an Earth observer. "Our calculations and computer models show that the temperature and size of the glowing material, as well as the time for which the glow lasted, are consistent with a collision between two icy giant exoplanets," said co-author Simon Locke, a researcher at the University of Bristol.
Scientists also studied the temperature of the planet's debris and this helped them to conclude what the infrared glow created by this catastrophic event might have looked like. Radiation matching this profile was detected by NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft, which hunts for asteroids and comets in our solar system.
Currently, observations of ASASSN-21qj and its planet debris are ongoing. Astronomers will collect data for several more years. According to their forecasts, the cloud of debris will spread through the orbits of the destroyed planets. Researchers can try to capture the scattering of light on this dust cloud using ground-based observatories and space telescopes such as the James Webb Space Telescope.
Earlier, OBOZ.UA told you about the unique blue sunset, which was captured on Mars by the Perseverance spacecraft.