Astronomers report tremendous quantities of warm dusty debris surrounding a star with luminosity and mass similar to the suns, but located 300 light-years from Earth. The extraordinary nature of the dust indicates a violent history of cosmic collisions between asteroids and comets, or perhaps even between planets. The discovery is published July 21 in Nature.
"What is so amazing is that the amount of dust around this star is approximately 1 million times greater than the dust around the sun," said Eric Becklin, a UCLA professor of physics and astronomy, member of NASAs Astrobiology Institute, and co-author of the Nature paper. "Its likely there was a cosmic catastrophe, and a time of heavy bombardment, where large asteroids collided in the last few thousand years or less. Its incredible what must be going on."
Unlike hundreds of other stars with dust, where the dust is far from the star -- equivalent to beyond the orbit of Pluto -- this dust is orbiting in close to the star, where Earth-like planets are most likely to be, said Inseok Song, a former UCLA research scientist who is now an astronomer with the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii, and lead author of the paper.
Stuart Wolpert | EurekAlert!
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