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CfA Press Release Images
 
 Release No. 04-34: Alien Treasures In Our Backyard
For Release: 1:00 p.m. EST, December 1, 2004

Our sun and a passing star may have exchanged small planets and dust as they flew by each other. In the first stage shown in this image of a computer simulation, dust and planets orbit in circular disks in each of the two solar systems.Our sun and a passing starmay have exchanged small planets and dust as they flew by each other. In the first stage shown in this image of a computer simulation, dust and planets orbit in circular disks in each of the two solar systems.(Credit: University of Utah and Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory)

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Simulations show that the glancing flyby shown here in a computer image best explains the current structure of our outer solar system. As the star and sun drew nearer, gravity began to take hold of objects in both systems. (Credit: University of Utah and Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory)Simulations show that the glancing flyby shown here in a computer imagebestexplains the current structure of our outer solar system. As the starandsun drew nearer, gravity began to take hold of objects in both systems.(Credit: University of Utah and Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory)

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As the sun and passing star approach each other, gravity can yank small objects from one solar system to the other, as shown in this computer image.As the sun and passing star approach each other, gravity can yank small objects from one solar system to the other, as shown in this computer image. (Credit: University of Utah and Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory)

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Once the stellar encounter is complete, the disk of each solar system contains a mixture of indigenous and captured dust and planets, as shown in the final computer image.Once the stellar encounter is complete, the disk of each solar system contains a mixture of indigenous and captured dust and planets, as shown in the final computer image. (Credit: University of Utah and Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory)

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