Scientists believe they have spotted a rocky planet in the making around a young, sun-like star 1,200 light years away in the constellation Vela.
The violent process, marked by collisions of asteroids and other proto-planetary bodies, was detected by a dramatic change in telltale infrared radiation emissions coming from warm dust circling the 35 million-year-old star.
ANALYSIS: Comet Swarm Smash-Up Spied Around Nearby Star
Astronomers monitored the star, known as NGC 2547-ID8, with NASA's Spitzer infrared space telescope between May 25, 2012, and Aug. 23, 2015, taking a 157-day break when the star was behind the sun and not visible. During the gap, the star's disk of orbiting dust dramatically brightened, then slowly dimmed over the course of a nearly a year.
"The observed sudden brightening and the consequent decay would be very hard to explain, if at all possible, without the occurrence of a new impact," Huan Meng, a planetary sciences graduate student at the University of Arizona, wrote in an email to Discovery News.