Exocomets Plunging into Star (Artist's Illustration)
This illustration shows several comets speeding across a vast protoplanetary disk of gas and dust and heading straight for the youthful, central star. These "kamikaze" comets will eventually plunge into the star and vaporize. The comets are too small to photograph, but their gaseous spectral "fingerprints" on the star's light were detected by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The gravitational influence of a suspected Jupiter-sized planet in the foreground may have catapulted the comets into the star.
This star, called HD 172555, represents the third extrasolar system where astronomers have detected doomed, wayward comets. The star resides 95 light-years from Earth.