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  • SOFIA Spots Debris from Catastrophic Collision between Two Rocky Exoplanets

Astronomers using NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) have observed an unusually warm, dusty debris disk around BD +20 307, a binary star system located 300 light-years away in the constellation of Aries. Their results suggest that an extreme collision between two rocky planetary bodies is the most likely origin for the warm dust in the BD +20 307 system.

BD +20 307, also known as HIP 8920 or SAO 75016, consists of two solar-type stars. They orbit a common center of mass every 3.42 days and are at least one billion years old.

Yet this mature stellar system has shown signs of swirling dusty debris that is not cold, as would be expected around stars of this age. Rather, the debris is warm, reinforcing that it was made relatively recently by the impact of two planet-sized bodies.

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