NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has spotted exocomets making plunge onto a young star. Exocomets are the comets that are outside our solar system. The young star is located 95 light-years from Earth.
The star is named HD 172555. It represents the third extrasolar system where the astronomers have discovered doomed, wayward comets. All of the systems are young and are under 40 million years old, NASA says.
Though not seen directly around the star, the presence of exocomets was inferred by detecting gas that could be the vaporised remnants of their icy nuclei.
Similar plunge has been found in our own solar system by the astronomers. Sun-grazing comets fall into the Sun routinely.
“Seeing these sun-grazing comets in our solar system and in three extrasolar systems means that this activity may be common in young star systems,” said study leader Carol Grady from NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
These doomed comets indicates that there is circumstantial evidence for “gravitational stirring” by an unseen Jupiter-size planet, where comets deflected by its gravity are catapulted into the star, the scientists said. T
These events also give new insights into the past and present activity of comets in our solar system.
“This activity at its peak represents a star’s active teenage years. Watching these events gives us insight into what probably went on in the early days of our solar system, when comets were pelting the inner solar system bodies, including Earth,” Grady said.
Infalling comets could have transported water to our planet Earth and the other inner planets of our solar system, believe scientists.
“In fact, these star-grazing comets may make life possible, because they carry water and other life-forming elements, such as carbon, to terrestrial planets,” Grady noted. The findings were presented at the winter meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Grapevine, Texas.