Exocomets may be as common as exoplanets

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At phys.org


Comets can be seen in this artistic depiction of the young star Beta Pictoris as seen from the outer edge of its disk.
(image by Credit: NASA / Lynette Cook.)
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Comets trailing wispy tails across the night sky are a beautiful byproduct of our solar system's formation, icy leftovers from 4.6 billion years ago when the planets coalesced from rocky rubble. 'This is sort of the missing link in current planetary formation studies,' Welsh said. 'We see dust disks -- presumably the primordial planet-forming material -- around a whole load of stars, and we see planets, but we don't see much of the stuff in between: the asteroid-like planetesimals and the comets. Now, I think we have nailed it. These exocomets are more common and easier to detect than people previously thought.' Welsh summarized the current theory of planet formation as 'interstellar dust under the influence of gravity becomes blobs, and the blobs grow into rocks, the rocks coalesce and become bigger things -- planetesimals and comets -- and finally, you get planets.'

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At phys.org

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