Researchers Find Possible Traces of Planet Collision

Artist's conception of mminent planetary collision around a pair of double stars.

Astronomers say they may have found evidence of a terrible collision between far-away planets.

The report is carried in the current edition of the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Scientists focused on a large amount of dust around what were described as three mature, close-orbiting star pairs, separated by about two-million miles. Looked at another way, that is about two percent of the distance separating the Earth and our sun. These tight double-star systems are also known to host planets and that's where things get interesting.

As the stars draw near each other, it's thought that changes in their gravitational pull might cause disturbances to any planets or comets orbiting around them - raising the possibility of collisions. "These kinds of systems paint a picture of the late stages in the lives of planetary systems," said Marc Kuchner, a co-author from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. said in a statement. "And it's a future that's messy and violent."

Artist's concept illustrates a tight pair of stars and a surrounding disk of dust.