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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This Binary System is Destined to Become a Kilonova

This is an artist’s impression of the first confirmed detection of a star system that will one day form a kilonova — the ultra-powerful, gold-producing explosion created by merging neutron stars. Image Credit: CTIO/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/J. da Silva/Spaceengine/M. Zamani

Kilonovae are extraordinarily rare. Astronomers think there are only about 10 of them in the Milky Way. But they’re extraordinarily powerful and produce heavy elements like uranium, thorium, and gold.

Usually, astronomers spot them after they’ve merged and emitted powerful gamma-ray bursts (GRBs.) But astronomers using the SMARTS telescope say they’ve spotted a kilonova progenitor for the first time.

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Binary Dwarf Stars Found Orbiting Each Other Every 20 Hours. They Were Once Almost Touching

Astronomers have spotted a pair of ultra-cool dwarf stars in a tight binary configuration. They rotate around one another in less than one Earth day. Image Credit: NASA/JPL Caltech

A team of astrophysicists has discovered a binary pair of ultra-cool dwarfs so close together that they look like a single star. They’re remarkable because they only take 20.5 hours to orbit each other, meaning their year is less than one Earth Day. They’re also much older than similar systems.

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The Donut That Used To Be a Star

This sequence of artist's illustrations shows how a black hole can devour a bypassing star. 1) A normal star passes near a supermassive black hole in the center of a galaxy. 2) The star's outer gasses are pulled into the black hole's gravitational field. 3) The star is shredded as tidal forces pull it apart. 4) The stellar remnants are pulled into a donut-shaped ring around the black hole, and will eventually fall into the black hole, unleashing a tremendous amount of light and high-energy radiation. Credit: NASA, ESA, Leah Hustak (STScI)

The death of a star is one of the most dramatic natural events in the Universe. Some stars die in dramatic supernova explosions, leaving nebulae behind as shimmering remnants of their former splendour. Some simply wither away as their hydrogen runs out, billowing into a red giant as they do so.

But others are consumed by behemoth black holes, and as they’re destroyed, the black hole’s powerful gravity tears the star apart and draws its gas into a donut-shaped ring around the black hole.

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A Black Hole is Savoring its Meal, Feeding on the Same Star Over and Over Again

This illustration shows a glowing stream of material from a star, being devoured and torn to shreds by a supermassive black hole. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Something extraordinary happens about every 10,000 to 100,000 years in galaxies like the Milky Way. An unwary star approaches the supermassive black hole (SMBH) at the galaxy’s center and is torn apart by the SMBH’s overpowering gravity. Astronomers call the phenomenon a tidal disruption event (TDE.)

Usually, a TDE spells doom for the star as its gas is torn away into the black hole’s accretion ring, causing a bright flaring visible for hundreds of millions of light years. But researchers have found one black hole that’s playing with its food.

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This Star is Blasting Out a Concentrated Jet of Material at 500 km/s

A team of astronomers was studying the masers around oddball star MWC 349A when they discovered something unexpected: a previously unseen jet of material launching from the star’s gas disk at impossibly high speeds. Image Credit: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), M. Weiss (NRAO/AUI/NSF)

MWC 349A is a star about 3,900 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. It’s huge, about 38 times as massive as the Sun. It’s actually a binary star and may even be a triple star. It’s an oddball and one of the brightest sources of radio emission in the sky.

One of the star’s unusual features is its natural maser. MWC 349A’s natural maser played a central role in a new discovery: the young star emits a blistering jet of material travelling at 500 km/sec (310 m/sec.) That discovery could help astronomers understand massive stars and their complexity.

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Are Planets Tidally Locked to Red Dwarfs Habitable? It’s Complicated

habitable exoplanet interstellar message
Artist's impression of a habitable exoplanet orbiting a red dwarf star. The habitability of the planets of red dwarf stars is conjectural (Credit ESO/M. Kornmesser public domain)

Astronomers are keenly interested in red dwarfs and the planets that orbit them. Up to 85% of the stars in the Milky Way could be red dwarfs, and 40% of them might host Earth-like exoplanets in their habitable zones, according to some research.

But there are some problems with their potential habitability. One of those problems is tidal locking.

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How Do Stars Get Kicked Out of Globular Clusters?

Hubble image of Messier 54, a globular cluster located in the Sagittarius Dwarf Galaxy. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Globular clusters are densely-packed collections of stars bound together gravitationally in roughly-shaped spheres. They contain hundreds of thousands of stars. Some might contain millions of stars.

Sometimes globular clusters (GCs) kick stars out of their gravitational group. How does that work?

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A Black Hole Consumed a Star and Released the Light of a Trillion Suns

A star is being consumed by a distant supermassive black hole. Astronomers call this a tidal disruption event (TDE). As the black hole rips apart the star, two jets of material moving with almost the speed of light are launched in opposite directions. One of the jets was aimed directly at Earth. Image credit: Carl Knox (OzGrav, ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery, Swinburne University of Technology)

When a flash of light appears somewhere in the sky, astronomers notice. When it appears in a region of the sky not known to host a stellar object that’s flashed before, they really sit up and take notice. In astronomical parlance, objects that emit flashing light are called transients.

Earlier this year, astronomers spotted a transient that flashed with the light of a trillion Suns.

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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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