Astronomers May Have Witnessed the Formation of a New Planet
In a groundbreaking discovery, astronomers have potentially detected the aftermath of a monumental collision between two massive planets. This cosmic crash could lead to the formation of a brand new planet as the wreckage cools down and eventually combines.
The star at the center of this extraordinary event is known as ASASSN-21qj, located a whopping 1,800 light years away from Earth. This distant star began to flicker and experienced unusual changes in its visible light for a few months. Initially, scientists attributed this dimming to material passing between the star and Earth. However, an alert amateur astronomer named Arttu Sainio noticed that the star had emitted increased levels of infrared light about two and a half years before the dimming occurred.
Based on this observation, researchers propose that the phenomenon could be explained by a colossal collision between two planets, known as a giant impact. These collisions are believed to be commonplace in the final stages of planet formation as they play a significant role in shaping the sizes, compositions, and thermal states of planets.
The energy released from such a collision would far surpass the energy emitted by the star itself. Material from the two colliding planets would have been superheated, melted, and vaporized, forming a massive hot mass of material larger than the original planets themselves. This clumpy cloud of material passing between ASASSN-21qj and Earth would have caused the erratic dimming observed by scientists.
Not only does this discovery provide an unprecedented opportunity to witness the birth of a new world in real-time, but it also offers invaluable insights into the complex process of planet formation. The collision likely occurred in the outer regions of the planetary system, similar to the ice giants Uranus and Neptune in our own solar system.
Further observations of the ASASSN-21qj system will be conducted to determine the sizes and compositions of the debris particles, analyze the chemistry of the post-impact body, and track its cooling process. These observations will undoubtedly contribute to our understanding of how giant impacts shape planetary systems and provide an incredibly rare opportunity to witness the formation of a new planet.
The study of ASASSN-21qj and its aftermath has the potential to revolutionize our understanding of planetary formation and provide crucial insights into the birth of celestial bodies. As astronomers continue to study this system, the world eagerly awaits the discoveries and revelations that will come with it.
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