Image: A storm of comets around star Eta Corvi

July 24, 2012
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

( -- This artist's conception illustrates a storm of comets around a star near our own, called Eta Corvi. Evidence for this barrage comes from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, whose infrared detectors picked up indications that comets were recently torn to shreds after colliding with a rocky body. In this artist's conception, one such giant comet is shown smashing into a rocky planet, flinging ice- and carbon-rich dust into space, while also smashing water and organics into the surface of the planet. A glowing red flash captures the moment of impact on the planet. Yellow-white Eta Corvi is shown to the left, with still more comets streaming toward it.

Spitzer detected of water ice, organics and rock around Eta Corvi -- key ingredients of comets. This is the first time that evidence for such a comet storm has been seen around another star. Eta Corvi is the right age, about one billion years old, to experience a bombardment of comets akin to what occurred in our own solar system at 600 to 800 millions years of age, termed the Late Heavy Bombardment.

Scientists say the Late Heavy Bombardment was triggered in our solar system by the migration of our outer planets, which jostled icy comets about, sending some of them flying inward. The incoming comets scarred our moon and pummeled our . They may have even brought materials to Earth that helped kick start life.

Explore further: Spitzer Finds Possible Comet Dust Around Dead Star

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not rated yet Jul 24, 2012
Yeehah! I don't think the LHB was that important, and any similar Jupiters rather pronounce bombardment on inner habitables instead of protecting them. But it is good to see that Earth isn't unique.

As is seeing the, likely, last of the Rare Earth idiocies now laid to rest. (With Charon being equivalent to the Moon and all.)
5 / 5 (1) Jul 25, 2012
I agree. It doesn't make sense to think that our solar system is very unique. It is exciting that we are getting to the point where we can make observations detailed enough to either confirm or deny how common our solar system is. It has been frustrating that the earliest detectable planets were such extreme things. I will not be surprised if the majority of stars like ours have planets like ours too. I'm also willing to speculate that life is not uncommon either, though life at any given time at any given place might be a rarity. Even here on Earth, there's only been life here for a short time. Over the lifespan of the Universe, there could have been countless civilations coming and going, and none of them ever existing at the same time.

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