Discovery of 30 exocomets in a young planetary system

(ORDO NEWS) — For the past 30 years, the star β Pictoris has attracted the attention of astronomers because it allows us to observe a planetary system in the process of formation.

It consists of at least two young planets and also contains comets that were discovered as early as 1987. These were the first comets ever observed around another star.

Now, an international research team led by Alain Lecavelier des Etanges, a CNRS research fellow at the Paris Astrophysical Institute (CNRS/Sorbonne University), has discovered 30 such exocomets and determined the size of their nuclei, which range in diameter from 3 to 14 kilometers.

Scientists were also able to estimate the distribution of objects in size, that is, the ratio of small and large comets.

This is the first time such a distribution has been measured outside our solar system, and it is strikingly similar to that of comets orbiting the Sun.

This shows that, like solar system comets, β Pictoris exocomets formed through a series of collisions and breakups.

This work sheds new light on the origin and evolution of comets in planetary systems. Since some of the water on Earth probably originated in comets,

Their findings, published in Scientific Reports on April 28, 2022, are the result of 156 days of observations of the β Pictoris system with NASA‘s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) telescope.

Other upcoming observations, notably with the Hubble and James Webb space telescopes, should allow scientists to learn more in the future.

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