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Astronomers theorize what it's like when worlds (and black holes) collide

Sean Hollister
08.25.10
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Tight binary solar systems are inhabited in science fiction -- remember the Star Wars world of Tatooine -- but humanity might find such planets inhospitable over the long term, and not just because of the heat. Using NASA's Spitzer telescope, scientists discovered clouds of dust around three such binary systems far too recent to come from the stars themselves, and theorize that as the stars attract one another over time and get closer and closer together, their respective orbiting planets may get closer as well, and crash into one another catastrophically.

Meanwhile, when supermassive black holes dance in pairs, they can merge as one, and astrophysicists have recently simulated how such a joining might appear on our telescopes. According to a team of US and Canadian researchers, the pair may emit strong jets of electromagnetic radiation before they merge, which twist around one another and throw off gravitational waves that can help pinpoint the source. Speaking of sources, we've got plenty of those immediately below if you'd like to read more.

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