Home > Astronomy, Astrophysics, General Astronomy, Stars > Comet Collisions Every Six Seconds Explain 17-Year-Old Stellar Mystery

Comet Collisions Every Six Seconds Explain 17-Year-Old Stellar Mystery


Every six seconds, for millions of years, comets have been colliding with one another near a star in the constellation Cetus called 49 CETI, which is visible to the naked eye. Over the past three decades, astronomers have discovered hundreds of dusty disks around stars, but only two — 49 CETI is one — have been found that also have large amounts of gas orbiting them.

Young stars, about a million years old, have a disk of both dust and gas orbiting them, but the gas tends to dissipate within a few million years and almost always within about 10 million years. Yet 49 CETI, which is thought to be considerably older, is still being orbited by a tremendous quantity of gas in the form of carbon monoxide molecules, long after that gas should have dissipated.

“We now believe that 49 CETI is 40 million years old, and the mystery is how in the world can there be this much gas around an otherwise ordinary star that is this old,” said Benjamin Zuckerman, a UCLA professor of physics and astronomy and co-author of the research, which was recently published in the Astrophysical Journal. “This is the oldest star we know of with so much gas.”

Zuckerman and his co-author Inseok Song, a University of Georgia assistant professor of physics and astronomy, propose that the mysterious gas comes from a very massive disk-shaped region around 49 CETI that is similar to the sun’s Kuiper Belt, which lies beyond the orbit of Neptune.

Full Story: http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/comet-collisions-every-six-seconds-240565.aspx

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