Stars form with gaseous and dusty circumstellar envelopes, which rapidly settle into disks that eventually give rise to planetary systems. Understanding the process by which these disks evolve is paramount in developing an accurate theory of planet formation that can account for the variety of planetary systems discovered so far. The formation of Earth-like planets through collisional accumulation of rocky objects within a disk has mainly been explored in theoretical and computational work in which post-collision ejecta evolution typically is ignored1,2,3, although recent work has considered the fate of such material4. Here we report observations of a young, Sun-like star (TYC 8241 2652 1) where infrared flux from post-collisional ejecta has decreased drastically, by a factor of about 30, over a period of less than two years. The star seems to have gone from hosting substantial quantities of dusty ejecta, in a region analogous to where the rocky planets orbit in the Solar System, to retaining at most a meagre amount of cooler dust. Such a phase of rapid ejecta evolution has not been previously predicted or observed, and no currently available physical model satisfactorily explains the observations.
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $3.90 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Rent or Buy article
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
Wetherill, G. W. Formation of the Earth. Annu. Rev. Earth Planet. Sci. 18, 205–256 (1990)
Asphaug, E., Agnor, C. B. & Williams, Q. Hit-and-run planetary collisions. Nature 439, 155–160 (2006)
Kenyon, S. J. & Bromley, B. C. Terrestrial planet formation. I. The transition from oligarchic growth to chaotic growth. Astron. J. 131, 1837–1850 (2006)
Stewart, L. & Leinhardt, Z. Collisions between gravity-dominated bodies: II. The diversity of impact outcomes during the end stage of planet formation. Astrophys. J. 751, 32 (2012)
Høg, E. et al. The Tycho-2 catalogue of the 2.5 million brightest stars. Astron. Astrophys. 355, L27–L30 (2000)
Ishihara, D. et al. The AKARI/IRC mid-infrared all-sky survey. Astron. Astrophys. 514, A1 (2010)
Wright, E. L. et al. The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE): mission description and initial on-orbit performance. Astron. J. 140, 1868–1881 (2010)
Telesco, C. M. et al. GatirCam: the Gemini mid-infrared imager. Proc . SPIE 3354, 534 (1998)
Rayner, J. T. et al. SpeX: a medium-resolution 0.8–5.5 micron spectrograph and imager for the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility. Publ. Astron. Soc. Pacif. 115, 362–382 (2003)
Vacca, W. D., Cushing, M. C. & Rayner, J. T. A method of correcting near-infrared spectra for telluric absorption. Publ. Astron. Soc. Pacif. 115, 389–409 (2003)
Cushing, M. C., Vacca, W. D. & Rayner, J. T. Spextool: a spectral extraction package for SpeX, a 0.8–5.5 micron cross-dispersed spectrograph. Publ. Astron. Soc. Pacif. 116, 362–376 (2004)
Poglitsch, A. et al. The Photodetector Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS) on the Herschel Space Observatory. Astron. Astrophys. 518, L2 (2010)
Zuckerman, B. Dusty circumstellar disks. Annu. Rev. Astron. Astrophys. 39, 549–580 (2001)
White, R. & Basri, G. Very Low mass stars and brown dwarfs in Taurus-Auriga. Astrophys. J. 582, 1109–1122 (2003)
Hauschildt, P. H., Allard, F. & Baron, E. The NextGen model atmosphere grid for 3000 < Teff 10,000 K. Astrophys. J. 512, 377–385 (1999)
Melis, C., Zuckerman, B., Rhee, J. H. & Song, I. The age of the HD 15407 system and the epoch of final catastrophic mass accretion onto terrestrial planets around Sun-like stars. Astrophys. J. 717, L57–L61 (2010)
Zuckerman, B. et al. Stellar membership and dusty debris disks in the alpha Persei Cluster. Astrophys. J. 752, 58 (2012)
Jura, M. A tidally disrupted asteroid around the white dwarf G29–38. Astrophys. J. 584, L91–L94 (2003)
Mouillet, D., Larwood, J. D., Papaloizou, J. C. B. & Lagrange, A. M. A planet on an inclined orbit as an explanation of the warp in the β Pictoris disc. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 292, 896–904 (1997)
Akeson, R. et al. The circumbinary disk of HD 98800B: evidence for disk warping. Astrophys. J. 670, 1240–1246 (2007)
Boley, A. et al. Constraining the planetary system of Fomalhaut using high-resolution ALMA observations. Astrophys. J. 750, L21 (2012)
Rhee, J. H., Song, I. & Zuckerman, B. Warm dust in the terrestrial planet zone of a Sun-like Pleiades star: collisions between planetary embryos? Astrophys. J. 675, 777–783 (2008)
Kenyon, S. J. & Bromley, B. C. Prospects for detection of catastrophic collisions in debris disks. Astron. J. 130, 269–279 (2005)
Grigorieva, A., Artymowicz, P. & Thébault Collisional dust avalanches in debris discs. Astron. Astrophys. 461, 537–549 (2007)
Metzger, B., Rafikov, R. & Bochkarev, K. Global models of runaway accretion in white dwarf debris disks. Mon. Not. R. Astron. Soc. 423, 505–528 (2012)
Lisse, C. M. et al. Abundant circumstellar silica dust and SiO gas created by a giant hypervelocity collision in the ∼12 Myr HD172555 system. Astrophys. J. 701, 2019–2032 (2009)
Currie, T. et al. Spitzer Infrared Spectrograph spectroscopy of the 10 Myr old EF Cha debris disk: evidence for phyllosilicate-rich dust in the terrestrial zone. Astrophys. J. 734, 115 (2011)
Padgett, D. L. Atmospheric parameters and iron abundances of low-mass pre-main-sequence stars in nearby star formation regions. Astrophys. J. 471, 847–866 (1996)
We thank J. Kastner for advice regarding X-ray data and M. Jura for suggesting the runaway accretion model. This work was based on observations obtained at the Gemini Observatory and makes use of data products from the Two Micron All Sky Survey and information from the SIMBAD and VizieR databases. C.M. acknowledges support from a LLNL Minigrant to UCLA and from the US National Science Foundation. This work was supported in part by NASA grants to UCLA and the University of Georgia.
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
This file contains Supplementary Text, in which we discuss in detail the age of TYC 8241 2652 1 and models for the disappearance of its dusty circumstellar disk, additional references and Supplementary Figure 1. (PDF 473 kb)
About this article
Cite this article
Melis, C., Zuckerman, B., Rhee, J. et al. Rapid disappearance of a warm, dusty circumstellar disk. Nature 487, 74–76 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature11210
Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (2020)
Mid-infrared Studies of HD 113766 and HD 172555: Assessing Variability in the Terrestrial Zone of Young Exoplanetary Systems
The Astrophysical Journal (2020)
The Astrophysical Journal (2019)
The Astrophysical Journal (2019)
Extreme Debris Disk Variability: Exploring the Diverse Outcomes of Large Asteroid Impacts During the Era of Terrestrial Planet Formation
The Astronomical Journal (2019)