What astronomers thought was a planet beyond our solar system has now seemingly vanished from sight, suggesting that what was heralded as one of the first exoplanets to ever be discovered with direct imaging likely never existed.
According to Physorg. two University of Arizona astronomers conclude that NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope was instead looking at an expanding cloud of very fine dust particles from two icy bodies that smashed into each other. Hubble came along too late to witness the suspected collision but may have captured its aftermath. The missing-in-action planet was last seen orbiting the star Fomalhaut, 25 light years away.
The suspected exoplanet, named Fomalhaut b, was first announced in 2008, based on data from 2004 and 2006.
The object was bright in visible light—highly unusual for an exoplanet, which is simply too small to reflect enough light from its host star to be seen from Earth. At the same time, it did not have any detectable infrared heat signature again, highly unusual, as a planet should be warm enough to shine in the infrared.
Astronomers conjectured that the added brightness came from a huge shell or ring of dust encircling the planet that may have been collision-related.
Data analysis of Hubble images taken in 2014 showed the object had vanished, to their disbelief. Adding to the mystery, earlier images showed the object to continuously fade over time, they say.
The astronomers said that Fomalhaut b was doing things a bona fide planet should not be doing.
Indeed, very mysterious, maybe it was not an expanding cloud of very fine dust particles from two icy bodies at all but a huge mothership or something like the infamous red planet Nibiru?