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Insider capturing a planetary collision for the first time

Insider capturing a planetary collision for the first time

What does it look like when two Neptune-sized planets collide, and what are the consequences? Now a team of astronomers has the answer, but only through sheer luck.

What happens when planets collide

Two ice giants orbiting the same star called ASASSN-21qj collided 1,800 light-years from Earth. The two planets are roughly the size of Uranus or Neptune from our solar system.

The impact not only created an aurora whose light reached Earth, but it also created a lot of cumulus and a hot, rotating piece that was probably hundreds of times the size of our Earth. All this emerges from a study conducted by the British University of Bristol and the Dutch University of Leiden, which is now published in the specialized journal nature It was published, and its authors were able to observe this phenomenon with their own eyes.

A purely accidental discovery

The fact that this team was able to make their astonishing discovery is thanks to an unidentified “skilled amateur astronomer” from the University of Bristol. On your website He writes. In fact, the researchers only pointed their telescopes at the “normal” star ASASSN-21qj to analyze its optical data, as it was losing light for inexplicable reasons.

Matthew Kenworthy had posted his data on social media, where the amateur astronomer noticed that the star suddenly became brighter in the infrared range about 1,000 days before it lost light. He responded directly to Kenworthy on social media, leading to two years of intense research.

NASA provides images

NASA’s Arttu Sainio was able to provide suitable images of infrared glow, e.g Watchman mentioned. Combined with all the other data collected and analyzed over two years, the conclusion is clear to the researchers.

The aurora images have been extensively analyzed (Image: Jingyao Du/University of Bristol)

“Our calculations and computer simulations show that the temperature and size of the glowing material, as well as the duration of the flare, are consistent with the consequences of the collision of two exoplanets, which are ice giants,” said Simon, co-leader of the study. Lock press release from the University of Bristol.

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The collision provides information about the exoplanets – and the Moon

The fact that suddenly less light appeared from the star was due to the debris that had moved in front of it three years after the impact. The duration of the dimming shows how large the amount of debris resulting from the impact was: it was observed for 900 days.

The researchers want to continue monitoring the debris cloud and closely monitor the additional consequences that the collision had on the distant solar system. The team hypothesizes that this will not only reveal a lot of knowledge about exoplanets and the formation of new celestial bodies, but also about moons, not least our own, which, according to current theory, were formed as a result of their collision with the Earth.

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