terrestrial planets orbiting a mature sun-like star some 300
light-years from Earth recently suffered a violent collision,
astronomers at UCLA, Tennessee State University and the California
Institute of Technology will report in a December issue of the
"It's as if Earth and Venus collided with each other," said Benjamin
Zuckerman, UCLA professor of physics and astronomy and a co-author on
the paper. "Astronomers have never seen anything like this before.
Apparently, major catastrophic collisions can take place in a fully
mature planetary system."
"If any life was present on either planet, the massive collision
would have wiped out everything in a matter of minutes — the
ultimate extinction event," said co-author Gregory Henry, an astronomer
at Tennessee State University (TSU). "A massive disk of
infrared-emitting dust circling the star provides silent testimony to
this sad fate."