Earth-sized planet had atmosphere torn off in 22,000mph smash, scientists say

A planet 95 light-years from Earth had its atmosphere torn off in a devastating collision, scientists believe.

New research suggests the distant world – around the same size as ours – was crashed into at 22,000 miles per hour, by a smaller object.

A team of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the National University of Ireland at Galway, Cambridge University, and other institutions, say the planet orbits a 23 million-year-old star named HD 172555.

According to their findings, the mighty collision destroyed the planet's atmosphere at least 200,000 years ago, leaving behind visible lasting damage.

The lead author of the research, Tajana Schneiderman says the discovery is a big deal because it is the first evidence of something scientists expect is pretty common, The Independent reports.

In the study which has been published in Nature, Ms Schneiderman who is a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, said: "This is the first time we’ve detected this phenomenon, of a stripped protoplanetary atmosphere in a giant impact.

"Everyone is interested in observing a giant impact because we expect them to be common, but we don’t have evidence in a lot of systems for it. Now we have additional insight into these dynamics."

Scientists have long been intrigued by the dust that surrounds the star HD 172555, because it contains large amounts of unusual minerals, in grains that are far finer than astronomers expect.

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Ms Schneiderman added that a powerful collision is the only thing that could explain the star and planet's unusual makeup.

She continued: "Because of these two factors, HD 172555 has been thought to be this weird system.

"Of all the scenarios, it’s the only one that can explain all the features of the data.

"In systems of this age, we expect there to be giant impacts, and we expect giant impacts to be really quite common.

"The timescales work out, the age works out, and the morphological and compositional constraints work out. The only plausible process that could produce carbon monoxide in this system in this context is a giant impact."

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