Of the large ice planets colliding with each other as they rotate around a star similar to the Sun, creating a glow of light and plumes of dust, is what has been observed, for the first time, by an international team that publishes a study in Nature.
The results of the team, led among others by the University of Leiden (Netherlands), show the heat glow and the resulting dust cloud, which moved in front of the parent star, obscuring it over time.
The first clue about this great explosion came from an astronomy fan who observed the light curve of the star and he noticed something strange about it, because the system doubled its brightness in infrared wavelengths about three years before the star began to fade in visible light. Experts considered this observation somewhat surprising and began to follow it with a network of telescopes, explained Matthew Kenworthy, co-author of the study and from Leiden University.
The network of professional and amateur astronomers studied the star, named as ASASSN-21qj, and monitored changes in its brightness over the next two years. The researchers concluded that the “most likely” explanation is that two ice giant exoplanets collided, producing the infrared glow detected by NASA’s NEOWISE mission, which uses a space telescope to search for asteroids and comets.
Calculations and computer models indicate that the temperature and size of the bright material, as well as the amount of time the glow has lasted, “is consistent with the collision of two ice giant exoplanets,” added another of the study’s authors Simon Lock, from the University of Bristol.