The collisions are thought to replenish the carbon monoxide in the ring, which would otherwise be quickly broken down by UV light from the star - within about a century.
ANALYSIS: Comets Lay Siege Around Nearby Star Systems
"To produce the amount of gas we detect, we're looking at the equivalent of the total destruction of a large comet every five minutes," said Aki Roberge, an astronomer at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and coauthor on the paper. "To get this number of collisions, this would have to be a very tight, massive swarm."
The swarm could be focused by the gravity of an as-yet undiscovered planet orbiting closer in to Beta Pictoris.
"A planet with roughly Saturn's mass could do the job," said Roberge.
If the comet collisions were occurring randomly throughout the entire disk, the gas observed would be evenly distributed and not in specific dense regions.
Whether there are multiple clumps of gas around Beta Pictoris or just one is still unknown - because we see the entire system edge-on it's difficult to determine. The motion of the densest, brightest clump appears to indicate two, though.