Water’s Epic Journey to Earth Began Before the Sun Formed

This artist’s impression shows the planet-forming disc around the star V883 Orionis. New research shows how water starts its journey in the gas cloud that forms the star, and eventually ends its journey on Earth. Image Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

The origins of Earth’s water is a complicated mystery that scientists have been untangling for decades. Life is impossible without water, so the origin of Earth’s life-giving water is a foundational question. As the power of our telescopes grows, researchers have made meaningful headway on the question.

Previous research uncovered links between Earth’s water and the Solar System’s comets and icy planetesimals. But newer research follows the chain back even further in time to when the Sun itself had yet to form.

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Speedrunning Star Formation in the Cygnus X Region

Cygnus X is a massive star formation region about 4600 light-years away. New research shows star formation occurring very rapidly. Image Credit: By NASA - http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/spitzer/multimedia/pia15253.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19475200

Stars are born in molecular clouds, massive clouds of hydrogen that can contain millions of stellar masses of material. But how do molecular clouds form? There are different theories and models of that process, but the cloud formation is difficult to observe.

A new study is making some headway, and showing how the process occurs more rapidly than thought.

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Galaxies Aren’t Just Stars. They’re Intricate Networks of Gas and Dust

This image taken by the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope shows the spiral galaxy NGC 1433. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, and J. Lee (NOIRLab), A. Pagan (STScI)

Astronomers have studied the star formation process for decades. As we get more and more capable telescopes, the intricate details of one of nature’s most fascinating processes become clearer. The earliest stages of star formation happen inside a dense veil of gas and dust that stymies our observations.

But the James Webb Space Telescope sees right through the veil in its images of nearby galaxies.

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Hubble’s New View of the Tarantula Nebula

A snapshot of the Tarantula Nebula (also known as 30 Doradus) is the most recent Picture of the Week from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, C. Murray, E. Sabbi; Acknowledgment: Y. -H. Chu

The Tarantula Nebula, also called 30 Doradus, is the brightest star-forming region in our part of the galaxy. It’s in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) and contains the most massive and hottest stars we know of. The Tarantula Nebula has been a repeat target for the Hubble since the telescope’s early years.

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Face-on View of Galaxy NGC 4303 Reveals its Arms are Filled with Active Star Formation

NGC 4303, a galaxy rich in star formation. It lies about 55 million light-years away in the Virgo Cluster. This view shows both visible-light and millimeter-wavelength views of the galaxy. Credit: ESO/ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/PHANGS

Galaxies fill a lot of roles in the universe. The most obvious one is star formation factories. Without that activity, the cosmos would be a very different place. The European Southern Observatory and the Atacama Large Millimeter Array recently zeroed in on the galaxy NGC 4303. Their goal: to take a multi-wavelength view of its star formation activity.

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A.I. Finds a New Way to Build Multiple-Star Systems

A false-color image of NGC 6334 from multiple telescopes. The area is believed to be a hotspot of furious star birth. Credit: S. Willis (CfA+ISU); ESA/Herschel; NASA/JPL-Caltech/ Spitzer; CTIO/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Over over 50% of high mass stars reside in multiple star systems. But due to their complex orbital interactions, physicists have a difficult time understanding just how stable and long-lived these systems are. Recently a team of astronomers applied machine learning techniques to simulations of multiple star systems and found a new way that stars in such systems can arrange themselves.

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Molecular Clouds Have Long Lives By Constantly Reassembling Themselves

This is a two-panel mosaic of part of the Taurus Giant Molecular Cloud, the nearest active star-forming region to Earth. The darkest regions are where stars are being born. Inside these vast clouds, complex chemicals are also forming. Image Credit: Adam Block /Steward Observatory/University of Arizona

Astronomers have recently discovered that giant clouds of molecular hydrogen, the birthplace of stars, can live for tens of millions of years despite the facts that individual molecules are constantly getting destroyed and reassembled. This new research helps place a crucial piece of understanding in our overall picture of how stars are born.

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Astronomers Spot an Orphaned Protostar

The HH 24 Complex (image credit: Reipurth et al.)

Astronomers have performed an impressive suite of observations at multiple wavelengths of the same system, dubbed the HH 24 complex. This complex hosts stars in the process of being born and the impacts of their violent interactions with each other, including the ejection of one of their siblings.

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It’s Feeding Time For This Baby Star in Orion

This new image of the Orion Nebula produced using previously released data from three telescopes shows two enormous caverns carved out by unseen giant stars that can release up to a million times more light than our Sun. All that radiation breaks apart dust grains there, helping to create the pair of cavities. Much of the remaining dust is swept away when the stars produce wind or when they die explosive deaths as supernovae. Image Credit: ESA/NASA/JPL-Caltech

Young protostars are wrapped in what could be called a womb of gas and dust. The gas and dust nearest to them form a circumstellar disk as the stars grow. The disk is a reservoir of material that the star accretes as it grows.

But these stars don’t feed in a predictable rhythm. Sometimes, they experience feeding frenzies, periods of time they accrete lots of material from the disk at once. When that happens, they flare in bright bursts, “burping” as they absorb more material.

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Baby Gas Giants Cast Shadows on Their Siblings

A computer-generated image depicting a dark protostellar disk seen edge-on at 90 degrees to jets (orange) emanating from the poles of a young star. Such disks are thought to be the precursors of planetary systems, with planets forming as the dust coalesces. RIKEN researchers may have spotted embryos of gas giant planets in one protostellar disk. Credit: Mark Garlick/Science Photo Library

A team of astronomers has caught glimpses of gas giants forming around a very young star.

The nascent giants are having a chilling effect on their potential siblings.

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