Did a Planet Disappear Mysteriously in 2004? Here's What Really Happened
Sixteen years ago, astronomers discovered an exoplanet in the in the constellation named Piscis Austrinus. The exoplanet, situated nearly 25 light years away from planet earth, was thrice the size of the biggest planet in our solar system, Jupiter. The planet was then named Fomalhaut b.
Interestingly, this planet also was the first exoplanet to have been imaged by telescopes. What a wonderful discovery, to say the least. But that was until the planet disappeared into thin air. A gigantic exoplanet, bigger than Jupiter, simply disappeared without a trace and astronomers had no idea why or what happened. It was almost as if the planet had never even existed!
And now, astronomers are gradually beginning to figure it out.
A new study suggests that Fomalhaut b may not have been a planet after all. In fact, it may just have been a dust cloud or the light emanating after a massive collision between two or more celestial bodies. The study proves this by showing that the exoplanet had been fading over a period of time. The light shone brightly when first discovered in 2004. However, ten years later, it appeared to have faded. Now if Fomalhaut b was really a planet, that wouldn't have been possible.
The study also mentions that such occurrences are extremely rare and such collisions almost never happen which is probably why the telescope missed it.