About 460 light years away lies the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex. It’s a molecular cloud—an active star-forming region—and it’s one of the closest ones. R. Ophiuchi is a dark nebula, a region so thick with dust that the visible light from stars is almost completely obscured.
But scientists working with ALMA have pin-pointed a pair of young proto-stars inside all that dust, doing the busy work of becoming active stars.
Continue reading “This is a Binary Star in the Process of Formation”
How did Earth evolve from an ocean of magma to the vibrant, life-supporting, blue jewel it is now? In its early years, the Earth was a blistering hot ball of magma. Now, 4.5 billion years later, it’s barely recognizable.
Is it possible to find exoplanets out there in the vast expanse, which are young molten globes much like young Earth was? How many of them can we expect to find? Where will we find them?
Continue reading “It Should Be Easiest to Search for Young Earth-like Planets When They’re Completely Covered in Magma”
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At the center of our galaxy resides the Galactic Bulge, a densely-packed region of stars, dust, and gas. Within this massive structure, which spans thousands of light-years, there are an estimated 10 billion stars, most of which are old red giant stars. Because of this density, astronomers have often wondered if a galactic bulge is a likely place to find stars with habitable planets orbiting them.
Essentially, stars that are closely packed together are more likely to experience close encounters with other stars, which can be catastrophic for any planets that orbit them. According to a new study from Columbia University’s Cool Worlds Lab, most stars in the Bulge will experience dozens of close encounters over the course of a billion years, which could have significant implications for long-term habitability in this region.
The Big Bang produced the Universe’s hydrogen, helium, and a little lithium. Since then, it’s been up to stars (for the most part) to forge the rest of the elements, including the matter that you and I are made of. Stars are the nuclear forges responsible for creating most of the elements. But when it comes to lithium, there’s some uncertainty.
A new study shows where much of the lithium in our Solar System and our galaxy comes from: a type of stellar explosion called classical novae.
Continue reading “Much of the Lithium Here on Earth Came from Exploding White Dwarf Stars”
Westerlund 2 is a star cluster about 20,000 light years away. It’s young—only about one or two million years old—and its core contains some of the brightest and hottest stars we know of. Also some of the most massive ones.
There’s something unusual going on around the massive hot stars at the heart of Westerlund 2. There should be huge, churning clouds of gas and dust around those stars, and their neighbours, in the form of circumstellar disks.
But in Westerlund 2’s case, some of the stars have no disks.
Continue reading “Huge Stars Can Destroy Nearby Planetary Disks”
For the child inside all of us space-enthusiasts, there might be nothing better than discovering a new type of explosion. (Except maybe bigger rockets.) And it looks like that’s what’s happened. Three objects discovered separately—one in 2016 and two in 2018—add up to a new type of supernova that astronomers are calling Fast Blue Optical Transients (FBOT).
Continue reading “A New Kind of Supernova Explosion has been Discovered: Fast Blue Optical Transients”
NASA’s TESS, or Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite has one main job: finding exoplanets. But it’s also helping astronomers study a strange type of star that has so far defied thorough explanation. Those stars are Delta Scuti stars, named after their prototype.
Continue reading “TESS is Also Helping Astronomers Study Bizarre Pulsating Stars”
Modern humans—or Homo Sapiens—have only been around for about 250,000 years. That’s only the blink of an eye in cosmological terms. As it turns out, the star Betelgeuse may only be about the same age.
A new study explores the idea that Betelgeuse formed from a merger of two stars only a few hundred thousand years ago.
Continue reading “Was Betelgeuse Formed by Merging Stars?”
A nova is a dramatic episode in the life of a binary pair of stars. It’s an explosion of bright light that can last weeks or even months. And though they’re not exactly rare—there are about 10 each year in the Milky Way—astronomers have never watched one from start to finish.
Continue reading “Astronomers Watch a Nova Go From Start to Finish for the First Time”
Everyone’s favorite red supergiant star is bright again. The American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) has been tracking Betelgeuse as it has gradually returned to its more normal brilliance. As of this writing, it is about 95% of its typical visual brightness. Supernova fans will have to wait a bit longer.
Continue reading “Betelgeuse Is Bright Again”