In something out of a science fiction film, astronomers have recently discovered the residual effects of what may have been a collision of two comets. Moreover, it is speculated that, perhaps, this type of collision may lead to the creation of a life breeding water source. The giant ball of carbon monoxide gas that is lingering in the cosmos of the Southern Hemisphere may be the result of ice particles continuing to knock into each other, even after the major crash has subsided. The concept of ice or water “living” amongst the stars in outer space implies the notion that maybe such planet-sized comet collisions could lead to the birth of life on alien planets, as H2O is a necessary element for life as we know it.
Astronomers in Chile spotted the mass, which lies near a solar system known as Beta Pictoris, with the help of a high-powered telescope known as ALMA. Although scientists are not completely sure what caused the collision, there are two possibilities. First, the crash could have been caused by two large icy masses colliding as they each traveled towards each other in opposite trajectories. The second notion is that this chaotic ball of “poison” gas could have been created by the gravitational pull of another “unseen” planet. It is also possible that a gravitational pull is what is keeping the icy, gassy, mass from completely dissipating.
Regardless, of the cause, the incident brings up an interesting point. It has long been discussed that the one vital element needed for “life” on other planets is water. It seems to be undisputed that comets, which traverse even Earth’s solar system, contain massive chunks of ice. Therefore, it stands to reason that where there is ice, there may be water. Perhaps, the aftermath that occurs from such comet collisions could cause the birth of life on distant alien planets. Astronomer Mark Wyatt points out the discovery of this recent incident: “…could help scientists to know about the happenings occurring in this young planetary system.”
The solar system Beta Pictoris, although 63 light years away can actually be monitored with modern technology, such as high-powered telescopes like ALMA. Although it is about 20 million yeas old, that is very young by our standards. For example, the Milky Way, Earth’s own solar system is believed to be more than 4.5 billion years old. There is, in essence a great advantage of being able to view such a young planetary system. As Beta Pictorus evolves, astronomers will potentially be able to learn multitudes about the development, not only of a foreign system, but perhaps glean lessons of the Milky Way’s past.
Although, the lingering chunks of debris are very likely to have been caused by two comets smashing into each other, it is the staying power of these particles that have scientists aflutter. Normally, after a comet collision, the gas breaks down fairly quickly. However, because this doesn’t seem to be the case, it is now being hypothesized that some nearby unknown planet is having this lingering effect on this dusty disk. Although the gas in this scenario is largely made up of carbon monoxide, a poison to humans, the “toxic” cloud may indicate a nearby planet that potentially holds life forms of some kind. Along with carbon monoxide, comet collisions may give of oxygen and carbon as well, potentially birthing some form of life on alien planets within distant solar systems.
By Josh Taub