Thursday, January 10, 2008

Evidence of Huge Planetary Collision Found

Astronomers may have discovered the aftermath of a collision between a Saturn-size planet and a smaller world, perhaps the size of Uranus, some 170 light-years away.

Scientists made the find while studying the larger planet, which orbits a small, dim star in the constellation Centaurus.

The planets were puzzled experts because the brightness and temperature not match what is known as the objects to be developed.

"It is either too dark or it is too hot," said Eric Mamajek of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

The planet-star system is only eight million years old, an age at which planets are still in the form, he said.

The world can with the remaining glowing heat of a mammoth collision with another protoplanet, Mamajek.

Such a collision would leave the planet unusually hot for many years, he said.

"We do not see the actual collision right now," said Mamajek.

"We see this long drawn-out period after the collision, about a hundred thousand years in which this thing would be very hot."

Mamajek discussed his findings yesterday at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas.

The discovery is exciting, because when our own solar system was young, at least three planets Uranus, Venus, Earth and are believed to have been smacked by large protoplanets.

"This could be the first evidence that this happens to another object in another solar system," said Mamajek.

The theory can not be confirmed, but astronomers can detailed observations of the distant planet atmosphere.

"It's very weak," said Mamajek. "And even the largest telescopes we have now really struggle to collect enough light."