Comet’s Fiery Plunge May Tell Us How Planets Form

Comet’s Fiery Plunge May Tell Us How Planets Form

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For the first time, scientists have caught a glimpse of a comet in the Icarus-like act of zipping too close to the sun – and watched as it paid the ultimate price. As a result, researchers not only have been able to piece together a detailed picture of the comet itself – something usually reserved for spacecraft fly-bys – but they also may have a found a way to use similar comets as test dummies for making key measurements of the sun’s atmosphere, or corona.

And by throwing the break-up process into reverse, they may be able to answer a nagging question tied to the formation of planets in the solar system some 4.5 billion years ago: How does the clumping process that gathers tiny dust grains into ever bigger lumps and finally to planet-size objects really work?

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