Researchers find planet losing atmosphere after massive impact

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Astronomers have for the first time detected something believed to be common in young, developing solar systems. A team led by MIT researchers has discovered evidence of a massive planetary impact in a nearby star system known as HD 17255. In this star system, researchers believe that a planet similar in size to Earth and a smaller impactor body likely collided over the past 200,000 years.

From the massive collision, part of the planet’s atmosphere has been removed. Although this type of collision is known and considered common in developing solar systems, it has never been directly observed. In our solar system, collisions of this type have occurred and the moon is said to have been created during an impact between the Earth and another body at the beginning of its formation.

HD 17255 is close to our cosmic-scale solar system just 95 light years away. The star in its center is called HD 172555 and is about 23 million years old. The researchers believe that the star’s dust has traces of this collision. Astronomers observed further evidence of a massive impact around the star, determining that the collision likely occurred between a terrestrial planet approximately the size of Earth and a smaller impactor at least 200,000 ago. years. The impact is believed to have occurred at a speed of over 22,000 miles per hour.

One of the research’s most crucial discoveries is the gas which indicates the high-speed impact washed away part of the larger planet’s atmosphere. This event would explain the gas and dust observed in orbit around the star. Lead author of the study, Tajana Schneiderman, says this is the first time scientists have detected the phenomenon of a stripped protoplanetary atmosphere resulting from an impact.


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