The finding was detected in the BD +20 307 system, which has two stars and is located more than 300 light-years from Earth. A decade ago, masses of warm dust were sighted on it. Last year, the NASA Infrared Astronomy Stratospheric Observatory (SOFIA) monitored the object and detected an increase of more than 10% in infrared radiation, which emits warm objects.
The appearance of such pronounced changes in such a short period of time cannot be explained by known mechanisms so that the researchers assume that these variations would be indicative of a fairly recent clash between two planets.
“This is a rare opportunity to study catastrophic collisions(collision of two exoplanets) that occur late in the history of a planetary system. SOFIA’s observations show changes in the dusty disk on a time scale of only a few years, ”said the statement to one of the authors, Alycia Weinberger.
According to the team leader, Maggie Thompson, from the University of California, it is an event similar to the hypothetical clash between Earth and the planet called Tea, as a result of which the Moon formed.
«The warm dust around BD +20 307 gives us an idea of how catastrophic impacts could be between rocky exoplanets. We want to know how this system evolves after an extreme impact, ”he says.
At the same time, astronomers do not rule out the possibility that the unusual accumulation of dust around the two BD +20 307 stars may have another origin that is still unknown.
«A catastrophic collision between bodies on a planetary scale remains the most likely source of excess system dust; however, the cause of its recent variation requires more research, ”says the study.