Hubble Watches an Exoplanet Atmosphere Change Over Three Years

An artist impression of Tylos, also known as WASP-121 b. It has a hot exoplanet atmosphere that seems to be changing over time. Courtesy: NASA, ESA, Q. Changeat et al., M. Zamani (ESA/Hubble
An artist impression of Tylos, also known as WASP-121 b. It has a hot exoplanet atmosphere that seems to be changing over time. Courtesy: NASA, ESA, Q. Changeat et al., M. Zamani (ESA/Hubble)

If you want to know more about an exoplanet atmosphere, watch how it changes over time. That’s the mantra of a group of astronomers who just reported on conditions at Tylos, otherwise known as WASP-121 b.

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How a Small Town in Japan Fiercely Defends its Dark Skies

The arch of the Milky Way seen over Bisei Town in Japan. It prides itself on its dark skies, but faces scattered light pollution from other nearby municipalities. Courtesy DarkSky.Org.
The arch of the Milky Way seen over Bisei Town in Japan. It prides itself on its dark skies, but faces scattered light pollution from other nearby municipalities. Courtesy DarkSky.Org.

Light pollution ruins dark skies. It’s a scourge that ground-based observatories have to deal with in one form or another. Scientists used a small observatory in Japan to measure what changed when a nearby town improved its lighting practices. They also noted the challenges it still faces.

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Organic Molecules Come from the Universe’s Cold Places

Asteroid Ryugu contains organic molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, thought to be chemical building blocks for life. Courtesy ISAS/JAXA
Asteroid Ryugu contains organic molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, thought to be chemical building blocks for life. Courtesy ISAS/JAXA

Life, as we all know, is based on chemistry. Prebiotic chemical building blocks existed on our planet for a long time before life arose. Astrobiology and cosmochemistry focus on the formation of those building blocks. They also look at the role each played in creating all the life forms we know today.

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JWST Sets a New Record, Sees Newly Forming Stars in the Triangulum Galaxy

Galaxy M33 (Triangulum Galaxy) as seen by Hubble Space Telescope. JWST was used recently to observe sites in its southern arm where newly forming stars (YSOs) appear to lie.
Galaxy M33 (Triangulum Galaxy) as seen by Hubble Space Telescope. JWST was used recently to observe sites in its southern arm where newly forming stars (YSOs) appear to lie.

Our Milky Way bristles with giant molecular clouds birthing stars. Based on what we see here, astronomers assume that the process of star creation also goes on similarly in other galaxies. It makes sense since their stars have to form somehow. Now, thanks to JWST, astronomers have spotted baby stellar objects in a galaxy 2.7 million light-years away. That’s millions of light-years more distant than any previous observations of newly forming stars have reached.

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Should We Be Preparing for First Contact?

First Contact. It’s a topic guaranteed to inspire a mix of emotions in people. It’s also one of the most fascinating SF scenarios we can imagine. What will people do when “they” appear? Or when we find evidence of life elsewhere in the Universe? For answers, one suggestion is to turn to a discipline called “exosociology”.

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How Do Superflares Get So Powerful?

Solar flare. Image credit: NASA
Solar flare. Image credit: NASA

We live with a star that sends out flares powerful enough to disrupt things here on Earth. Telecommunications, power grids, even life itself, are affected by strong solar activity. But, the Sun’s testy outbursts are almost nothing compared to the superflares emitted by other stars. Why do flares happen? And what’s going on at distant stars to ramp up the power of their flares?

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Three Baby Stars Found at the Heart of the Milky Way

The image, taken with ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile, shows a high-resolution view of the innermost parts of the Milky Way. In the new study, the researchers examined the dense nuclear star cluster shown in detail here. Credit: ESO.
The image, taken with ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile, shows a high-resolution view of the innermost parts of the Milky Way. In the new study, the researchers examined the dense nuclear star cluster shown in detail here. Credit: ESO. Milky Way in the background. Image credit: NASA

The core of our Milky Way is buzzing with stars. Recently astronomers reported that it contains at least one ancient star that formed outside our galaxy. Now, an international research team reports finding a grouping of very young ones there, as well. Their presence upends ideas about star birth in that densely packed region of space.

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A Star Near the Center of the Milky Way is a Visitor from Beyond

The alien star S0-6 is spiraling toward Sagittarius A*, the Milky Way's central supermassive black hole. S0-6 likely came from another galaxy. Courtesy: Miyagi University of Education/NAOJ. Image credit: NASA/JPL
The alien star S0-6 is spiraling toward Sagittarius A*, the Milky Way's central supermassive black hole. S0-6 likely came from another galaxy. Courtesy: Miyagi University of Education/NAOJ. Image credit: NASA/JPL

There’s an alien red giant star orbiting in the center of our galaxy. It’s called S0-6 and has chemical fingerprints from its birthplace far outside the Milky Way. This ancient star is spiraling slowly in toward the supermassive black hole Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*) at the heart of the Milky Way. Eventually, it could get drawn into the black hole and destroyed after traveling for tens of thousands of years to get there.

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In 1872, a Solar Storm Hit the Earth Generating Auroras from the Tropics to the Poles

Coronal Mass Ejection as viewed by the Solar Dynamics Observatory on June 7, 2011. A similar type of outburst triggered aurorae during a strong geomagnetic storm in February 1872. Image Credit: NASA/SDO
Coronal Mass Ejection as viewed by the Solar Dynamics Observatory on June 7, 2011. A similar type of outburst triggered aurorae during a strong geomagnetic storm in February 1872. Image Credit: NASA/SDO

Imagine a solar storm generating auroral displays across the entire sky. No, we haven’t quite seen them that strong in the current solar cycle. But, back in February 1872, people around the world reported seeing brilliant northern and southern lights. The culprit? A medium-sized sunspot group that unleased a torrent of charged particles in a coronal mass ejection directed toward Earth.

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