Matched Twin Stars are Firing Their Jets Into Space Together

This artist’s concept shows two young stars nearing the end of their formation. Encircling the stars are disks of leftover gas and dust from which planets may form. Jets of gas shoot away from the stars’ north and south poles. Credit: NASA

Since it began operating in 2022, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has revealed some surprising things about the Universe. The latest came when a team of researchers used Webb‘s Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) to observe Rho Ophiuchi, the closest star-forming nebula to Earth, about 400 light-years away. While at least five telescopes have studied the region since the 1970s, Webb’s unprecedented resolution and specialized instruments revealed what was happening at the heart of this nebula.

For starters, while observing what was thought to be a single star (WL 20S), the team realized they were observing a pair of young stars that formed 2 to 4 million years ago. The MIRI data also revealed that the twin stars have matching jets of hot gas (aka stellar jets) emanating from their north and south poles into space. The discovery was presented at the 244th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (224 AAS) on June 12th. Thanks to additional observations made by the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), the team was surprised to notice large clouds of dust and gas encircling both stars.

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Astroscale Closes Within 50 Meters of its Space Junk Target

Image of space junk

Space debris is a major problem for space exploration. There are millions of pieces up there in orbit from flecks of paint to defunct satellites. It is a known challenge to space exploration creating a shell of uncontrolled debris which could cause damage to orbiting craft or astronauts. A team at Astroscale have a spacecraft in orbit whose singular purpose has been to rendezvous with a defunct Japanese upper-stage rocket module. On arrival it is to survey the debris to test approach and survey techniques to ultimately inform how we can remove them from orbit.

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Here’s Hubble’s First Image in its New Pointing Mode

The Hubble Space Telescope captured this image of the galaxy NGC 1546 while in single gyro mode. Image Credits: NASA, ESA, STScI, David Thilker (JHU)

This is probably what the demise of the Hubble Space Telescope was always going to look like: components failing one by one, with no way to replace them. In the last few months, the Hubble has repeatedly gone into safe mode as one of its remaining three gyros keeps giving faulty readings. But the Hubble and the people operating it are resilient and resourceful. The telescope is back to science operations now, though in single gyro mode.

NASA has released the first image the Hubble captured in this mode, and it’s clear that the Hubble is performing well.

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Slingshotting Around the Sun Would Make a Spacecraft the Faster Ever

NASA is very interested in developing a propulsion method to allow spacecraft to go faster. We’ve reported several times on different ideas to support that goal, and most of the more successful have utilized the Sun’s gravity well, typically by slingshotting around it, as is commonly done with Jupiter currently. But, there are still significant hurdles when doing so, not the least of which is the energy radiating from the Sun simply vaporizing anything that gets close enough to utilize a gravity assist. That’s the problem a project supported by NASA’s Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) and run by Jason Benkoski, now of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is trying to solve.

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Perseverance Found Some Strange Rocks. What Will They Tell Us?

This image shows a jumbled field of light toned rocks with unusual ‘popcorn’-like textures and abundant mineral veins. NASA's Mars Perseverance rover acquired this image using its Right Mastcam-Z camera. This image was acquired on June 10, 2024 (Sol 1175) at the local mean solar time of 14:04:57. NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

NASA’s Perseverance Rover has left Mount Washburn behind and arrived at its next destination, Bright Angel. It found an unusual type of rock there that scientists are calling ‘popcorn rock.’ The odd rock is more evidence that water was once present in Jezero Crater.

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Marsquakes Can Help Us Find Water on the Red Planet

The Mars InSight lander's seismic detector was used to observe seismic waves from Marsquakes and impacts. Courtesy NASA
The Mars InSight lander's seismic detector was used to observe seismic waves from Marsquakes and impacts. New research shows that the lander's seismic and magnetic data could be used to detect subsurface water on Mars. Image Credit: NASA

Earth is a seismically active planet, and scientists have figured out how to use seismic waves from Earthquakes to probe its interior. We even use artificially created seismic waves to identify underground petroleum-bearing formations. When the InSIGHT (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) lander was sent to Mars, it sensed Marsquakes to learn more bout the planet’s interior.

Researchers think they can use Marsquakes to answer one of Mars’ most pressing questions: Does the planet hold water trapped in its subsurface?

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If We Want To Find Life-Supporting Worlds, We Should Focus on Small Planets With Large Moons

A rocky planet with a large moon may have good potential to host life, given that the Moon controls essential aspects for life on Earth, including the length of the day, ocean tides, and stable climate. Image Credit: University of Rochester photo illustration by Michael Osadciw featuring Unsplash photography from Brad Fickeisen, Jaanus Jagomagi, and Engin Akyurt

There’s no perfect way of doing anything, including searching for exoplanets. Every planet-hunting method has some type of bias. We’ve found most exoplanets using the transit method, which is biased toward larger planets. Larger planets closer to their stars block more light, meaning we detect large planets transiting in front of their stars more readily than we detect small ones.

That’s a problem because some research says that life-supporting planets are more likely to be small, like Earth. It’s all because of moons and streaming instability.

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The Earliest Merging Quasars Ever Seen

This illustration depicts two quasars in the process of merging. Using both the Gemini North telescope, one half of the International Gemini Observatory, which is supported in part by the U.S. National Science Foundation and operated by NSF NOIRLab, and the Subaru Telescope, a team of astronomers have discovered a pair of merging quasars seen only 900 million years after the Big Bang. Not only is this the most distant pair of merging quasars ever found, but also the first confirmed pair found in the period of the Universe known as Cosmic Dawn.

Studying the history of science shows how often serendipity plays a role in some of the most important discoveries. Sometimes, the stories are apocryphal, like Newton getting hit on the head with an apple. But sometimes, there’s an element of truth to them. That was the case for a new discovery of the oldest pair of merging quasars ever discovered – and it all started with a pair of red blots on a picture.

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Hubble's Back, but Only Using One Gyro

This image of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope was taken on May 19, 2009 after deployment during Servicing Mission 4. NASA

The Hubble Space Telescope has experienced ongoing problems with one of its three remaining gyroscopes, so NASA has decided to shift the telescope into single gyro mode. While the venerable space telescope has now returned to daily science operations, single gyro mode means Hubble will only use one gyro to maintain a lock on its target. This will slow its slew time and decrease some of its scientific output. But this plan increases the overall lifetime of the 34-year-old telescope, keeping one gyro in reserve. NASA is also troubleshooting the malfunctioning gyro, hoping to return it online.

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Earth’s Atmosphere is Our Best Defence Against Nearby Supernovae

Artist's impression of a Type II supernova explosion. These supernova produce gamma rays and powerful ionizing radiation that's hazardous to life. Credit: ESO

Earth’s protective atmosphere has sheltered life for billions of years, creating a haven where evolution produced complex lifeforms like us. The ozone layer plays a critical role in shielding the biosphere from deadly UV radiation. It blocks 99% of the Sun’s powerful UV output. Earth’s magnetosphere also shelters us.

But the Sun is relatively tame. How effective are the ozone and the magnetosphere at protecting us from powerful supernova explosions?

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