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Astronomers Witness Collision of Planets for the First Time

Astronomers have made a groundbreaking discovery by witnessing the first-ever collision between two large planets. This spectacular celestial event, which involved two ice giants, has left the scientific community in awe. The collision created a massive object, surrounded by debris, that will eventually transform into a star.

Discovery and Observations

While searching for shadows cast by giant planetary rings, Dr. Matthew Kenworthy, a co-author from the Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, noticed a dimming in the light of ASASSN-21qj, a star located 1,800 light-years away from Earth.

Astronomer Arttu Sainio, a volunteer scientist at NASA, used the US Space Agency’s Neowise mission, an infrared space telescope, to study past observations of ASASSN-21qj. Sainio found that the star had brightened in infrared light 900 days before it dimmed.

Unique Afterglow Discovery

Simon Lock, another co-lead author from the University of Bristol, emphasized the uniqueness of this discovery. While scientists have previously observed debris and discs resulting from celestial events, witnessing the afterglow of a planetary body produced by a collision is a first.

Future Insights and Follow-up Studies

This unprecedented observation has opened new avenues for research and excited astronomers. Experts plan to conduct follow-up studies to gain further insights into the evolution of the celestial aftermath. Dr. Kenworthy believes that if the dust cloud continues to orbit the star, astronomers might observe the star’s light reflected from the dust in the next five to ten years, using large ground-based telescopes.



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