View Full Version : Discussion: Gemini Sees Smashing Planetesimals

2005-Jan-13, 05:48 PM
SUMMARY: Astronomers using the giant Gemini South 8-metre telescope in Chile have spotted what seems to be a collision between two planet-sized objects orbiting the nearby star Beta Pictoris. A collision like this would create a lot of dust, but the star is like a powerful fan that should quickly blow it all away. Based on the amount of dust still there, astronomers think the collision happened only 100 years ago, or so. This is exactly like the scenario astronomers believe our own Solar System went through 5 billion years ago as the various planets formed through multiple collisions.

View full article (http://www.universetoday.com/am/publish/smashing_planetesimals.html)

What do you think about this story? Post your comments below.

2005-Jan-13, 05:59 PM
If we send a ship there now using todays chemical rocket technology, by the time it gets there the main collisional era should be about done, and a new planet for colonizing should be ready.

Any volunteers?

2005-Jan-13, 06:10 PM
It's nice to have some nearby stars in various stages of forming planets. As our telescope resolution improves, we will get increasingly clear examples of how stars and planets form. This should give us an increasingly good idea about how our solar system formed.

I'm very curious to know if the inner planets of Beta Pic are rocky, or do they have large super-thick atmospheres that will get blown away later by collision or evaporation. I'll have to wait a couple decades to learn this.

2005-Jan-18, 05:25 AM
We are extraordinarily lucky that this collision took place when we were able to detect it. Such collisions of course are much more likely in newly formed systems like this one. I for one would not want to try to colonize that system right now. Maybe in 500 million years. There is likely to be so much debris that a doomsday comet/asteroid would likely strike any potentially habitable planet there every century or even more frequently. It would take an immense effort to try to protect any give planet from a ruinous impact, so much so that it would not be worth trying until much later. As an analogy think of what was happening in the early bombardment period in this solar system. With more starting material, that process is probably 10x more intense over there right now.

2005-Jan-18, 03:06 PM
I for one would not want to try to colonize that system right now. Maybe in 500 million years. Colonizing may be a bit ambitious. But 500 milion years is a bit conservative. I'd like to get a probe there to observe the details as soon as we can.