Much as astrobiologists would like to see the birth of a new planet, the ones we observe seem to be dying, not being born.

“Newly found planet may turn into dust,” reads a headline on NASA’s Astrobiology Net.  This does not bode well for any inhabitants the astrobiologists would like to meet.  Echoing a press release from MIT, the article described how a planet around a star 1,500 light-years away appears to have a comet-like tail, evidence of a cloud of dust following the planet as it disintegrates.  The press release includes a 40-second animation of how the “doomed world” is shedding its material, and ends with this statement:

“This might be another way in which planets are eventually doomed,” says Fabrycky, who was not involved in the research. “A lot of research has come to the conclusion that planets are not eternal objects, they can die extraordinary deaths, and this might be a case where the planet might evaporate entirely in the future.”

PhysOrg today described another place where planets are doomed.  Too remote to be observed directly, this system’s dust disk appears to be tugged at by a black hole at the galactic center.  No need to worry about the inhabitants there; there aren’t any.  “Yet, even if planets do form, living near a supermassive black hole is still not a hospitable place for life,” the article said.  “The extreme amounts of UV radiation emitted as the black hole devours gas and dust is likely to sterilize the region.”

As referenced in the May 14 entry, New Scientist warned that dust disks around stars can no longer be assumed as planet maternity wards.  “Dust rings not ‘smoking gun’ for planets after all,” wrote Maggie McKee.  (Sorry for the unfortunate mixed metaphors; the thought of a smoking gun in a maternity ward may be disturbing – unless nothing was being born there in the first place.)  The dust surrounding a star can form sharply-defined rings without congealing into a paradise for aliens….

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