When Worlds Collide
Honorable Mention We have discovered thousands of planets outside our own Solar System. Some of these exoplanet systems are much more tightly packed than ours. In such a system, what would happen if two planets the size of Jupiter collided?This team designed highly-specialized computer programs to model what might happen. This image shows the simulated planetary system shortly after collision. The two circles represent the planets original orbits. (They crashed where the orbits were very close together on the right-hand side.) The spiraling cloud is plan-etary matter sprayed out across the system. The bright object near the bottom of the image could be a new planet forming from the remains--notice how it no longer follows either of the original orbits.Some currently observed exoplanets may have undergone such a collision (or collisions) many years ago. Cutting-edge simulations like these help us understand how planets form and how they can change over time. Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration & Research in Astrophysics (CIERA)Tools & Techniques: Computer simulation laid over a NASA Kepler telescope image
This image originally appeared as part of Northwestern's Scientific Images Contest. The contest and subsequent exhibitions are organized by Science in Society, the university's research center for science education and public engagement. Further information and opportunities to participate are available on their website. Prints and canvas editions of these Northwestern research images can also be purchased online (with the small net profit going to science education and outreach programming in the Chicago area).
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2015When the item was originally created.