Talk about being blown away, the winds described in the article below (under my section of this post) are so powerful that entire giant ice planets are blown away before they have a chance to form.
From the sounds of it there would be few, if any, comets, and possibly far fewer asteroids, in such stellar wind devastated solar systems.
If inner planets do develop in those solar systems they would probably be a heck of a lot safer than our own solar system is. Imagine if there were no comets, and far fewer asteroids, to cause extinction level events.
Oh, wait, if there were still dinosaurs around we might not have had a chance to evolve. Maybe having a lot of rocks flying around out there is a good thing… unless we happen to get hit by one that makes us go extinct. :\
Another thing though, from what I have been seeing in planetary science over the last decade is evidence that much, or most, of our water here on earth may have come from comets. If our comets and ice planets had been blown away when our solar system was young… there may not have been enough water here on earth for life, as we know it, to evolve.
Perhaps we do live in a far more dangerous type of solar system, but maybe the benefits of not having our outer solar system blown away when it was young far outweigh the negatives… unless we do eventually get hit by a giant rock from space and go extinct. But at least we had lived and had that chance to evolve in the first place.
If, or when, we get out there, to other solar systems, and we come across one of those dry ones (that had their outer system blown away by stellar winds), there still might be a lot of heavy metals in the inner systems that could be mined… and it seems to me, to the delight of big business, there would be little chance of natives to complain about the pillaging of their solar system.
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
Dec. 16, 2008
Planets Living on the Edge
Some stars have it tough when it comes to raising planets. A new image from NASA's Spitzer
Space Telescope shows one unlucky lot of stars, born into a dangerous neighborhood. The stars
themselves are safe, but the material surrounding them -- the dusty bits of what might have been
future planets -- can be seen blowing off into space.
The hazard in this particular nook of space is a group of behemoth stars. Radiation and winds
from the massive stars are wiping smaller, sun-like stars clean of their planet-making material.
"We are seeing the effects that massive stars have on smaller stars that are trying to form
planets," said Xavier Koenig, lead author of a paper about the discovery, recently published in the
Astrophysical Journal Letters. "These stars may or may not go on to form small, inner planets like
the Earth, but it's probable that outer planets like Uranus and Neptune would never come to be."
The Spitzer picture can be seen at:
Many stars and planets do in fact grow up and survive the harsh environments of massive stars.
Some astronomers say our middle-aged sun, though now sitting in a tranquil patch of space,
once resided in a raucous, massive star-forming cloud. Over time, stars in these turbulent regions
disperse and spread out, spending their later years in relative solitude.
The new Spitzer observations illustrate just how nasty these massive star-forming regions can be.
It shows a portion of an active star-forming nebula called W5, located about 6,500 light-years
away in the constellation Cassiopeia. Radiation and winds from a hub of four stars, each about 20
times as massive as our sun, are stripping the planet-forming material right off of three young,
sun-like stars about one light-year away.
The sun-like stars are about two to three million years old -- the age when stars are thought to
begin forming planets out of disks of gas and dust that swirl around them. The dust from these
disks is visible in the Spitzer image as comet-like tails pointing away from the destructive massive
Spitzer, an infrared observatory, can see this dust from the disks because the dust is warm and
glows with infrared light. Since the telescope was launched more than five years ago, it has
identified a handful of disks being blown from their stars.
"On astronomical timescales, these events are probably fairly short-lived," said Koenig. "It
probably takes about one million years for the disks to completely disappear."
Koenig said that the dust being swiped away is from the outer portion of the stars' planet-forming
disks -- around where Uranus and Neptune would orbit in our solar system and beyond. That
means it's possible that any baby Earths forming in these faraway systems would grow up safely.
Outer planets, on the other hand, might be nothing more than dust in the wind.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the Spitzer Space Telescope
mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Science operations are conducted
at the Spitzer Science Center at the California Institute of Technology, also in Pasadena. Caltech
manages JPL for NASA. The multiband imaging photometer for Spitzer, which made the new
observations, was built by Ball Aerospace Corporation, Boulder, Colo., and the University of
Arizona, Tucson. Its principal investigator is George Rieke of the University of Arizona.
For more information about Spitzer, visit http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/spitzer and
http://www.nasa.gov/spitzer . More information about extrasolar planets and NASA's planet-
finding program is at http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov .