The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted evidence of ‘kamikaze’ comets plummeting straight into a young star just 95-light years away from Earth.
Researchers suspect these doomed exocomets are ‘catapulted’ to their demise in the 23-million-year-old star by a mysterious Jupiter-sized planet that lurks somewhere nearby.
This phenomenon, known as ‘gravitational stirring,’ could provide insight on the ways falling comets once brought water to Earth and other planets in the ancient solar system, and thus made life possible.
WHAT HUBBLE SAW
The exocomets spotted by Hubble weren’t seen directly – instead, the space telescope captured their gaseous spectral ‘fingerprints,’ or, what’s thought to be the vaporized remnants of their icy nuclei.
During the study, the team conducted spectrographic analyses in ultraviolet light, allowing the space telescope to identify the signature of certain elements.
Two observations were made by the telescope, separated by six days, revealing silicon and carbon gas in the starlight.