Share

News Release Archive:

News Release 2 of 252

January 6, 2017 03:15 PM (EST)

News Release Number: STScI-2017-02

Hubble Detects 'Exocomets' Taking the Plunge into a Young Star

An American Astronomical Society Meeting Release

January 6, 2017: Interstellar forecast for a nearby star: Raining comets! The comets are plunging into the star HD 172555, which resides 95 light-years from Earth. The comets were not seen directly around the star. Astronomers inferred their presence when they used NASA's Hubble Space Telescope to detect gas that is likely the vaporized remnants of their icy nuclei.

The presence of these doomed comets provides circumstantial evidence for "gravitational stirring" by an unseen Jupiter-size planet, where comets deflected by the massive object's gravity are catapulted into the star. These events also provide new insights into the past and present activity of comets in our solar system. It's a mechanism where infalling comets could have transported water to Earth and the other inner planets of our solar system. HD 172555 represents the third extrasolar system where astronomers have detected doomed, wayward comets. All of these systems are young, under 40 million years old.

See the rest:

Credit: NASA, ESA, and C. Grady (Eureka Scientific Inc., and Goddard Space Flight Center)

Artist's Illustration Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild and G. Bacon (STScI)