Hubble Sees a Brand New Triple Star System

This NASA Hubble Space Telescope image captures a triple-star star system. NASA, ESA, G. Duchene (Universite de Grenoble I); Image Processing: Gladys Kober (NASA/Catholic University of America)

In a world that seems to be switching focus from the Hubble Space Telescope to the James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble still reminds us it’s there. Another amazing image has been released that shows the triple star system HP Tau, HP Tau G2, and HP Tau G3.  The stars in this wonderful system are young, HP Tau for example is so young that it hasn’t started to fuse hydrogen yet and is only 10 million years old!

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Two Stars in a Binary System are Very Different. It's Because There Used to be Three

This image, taken with the VLT Survey Telescope hosted at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, shows the beautiful nebula NGC 6164/6165, also known as the Dragon’s Egg. The nebula is a cloud of gas and dust surrounding a pair of stars called HD 148937. Credit: ESO/VPHAS+ team. Acknowledgement: CASU
This image, taken with the VLT Survey Telescope hosted at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, shows the beautiful nebula NGC 6164/6165, also known as the Dragon’s Egg. The nebula is a cloud of gas and dust surrounding a pair of stars called HD 148937. Credit: ESO/VPHAS+ team. Acknowledgement: CASU

A beautiful nebula in the southern hemisphere with a binary star at it’s center seems to break our standard models of stellar evolution. But new data from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) suggests that there may once have been three stars, and that one was destroyed in a catastrophic collision.

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Baby Stars Discharge “Sneezes” of Gas and Dust

The baby star at the center surrounded by a bright disk called a protostellar disk. Spikes of magnetic flux, gas, and dust in blue. Researchers found that the protostellar disk will expel magnetic flux, gas, and dust—much like a sneeze—during a star's formation.

I’m really not sure what to call it but a ‘dusty sneeze’ is probably as good as anything. We have known for some years that stars surround themselves with a disk of gas and dust known as the protostellar disk. The star interacts with it, occasionally discharging gas and dust regularly. Studying the magnetic fields revealed that they are weaker than expected. A new proposal suggests that the discharge mechanism ‘sneezes’ some of the magnetic flux out into space. Using ALMA, the team are hoping to understand the discharges and how they influence stellar formation. 

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Astronomers See 18 Examples of Stars Getting Torn Apart by Black Holes

MIT scientists have identified 18 new tidal disruption events (TDEs) — extreme instances when a nearby star is tidally drawn into a black hole and ripped to shreds. The detections more than double the number of known TDEs in the nearby universe. Credits:Credit: Courtesy of the researchers, edited by MIT News

Black holes have always held a special fascination for me ever since I was a geeky kid looking up at the stars. Their intense forces are the stuff of science fiction and can tear a star to pieces. This process is violent and can send bursts of electromagnetic radiation across the Cosmos. A paper recently published announces the discovery of 18 new tidal events just like this, doubling the number of identified shredded stars. 

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Is this the Lightest Black Hole or Heaviest Neutron Star?

An international team of astronomers have found a new and unknown object in the Milky Way that is heavier than the heaviest neutron stars known and yet simultaneously lighter than the lightest black holes known. Image Credit: University of Manchester/Max Planck Institutue for Radio Astronomy

About 40,000 light-years away, a rapidly spinning object has a companion that’s confounding astronomers. It’s heavier than the heaviest neutron stars, yet at the same time, it’s lighter than the lightest black holes. Measurements place it in the so-called black hole mass gap, an observed gap in the stellar population between two to five solar masses. There appear to be no neutron stars larger than two solar masses and no black holes smaller than five solar masses.

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A Giant Star is Fading Away. But First, it Had an Enormous Eruption

Astronomers from Georgia State University’s CHARA Array have captured the first close-up images of a massive star known as RW Cephei that recently experienced a strange fading event. The images are providing new clues about what’s happening around the massive star approximately 16,000 light years from Earth. Image Credit: GSU/CHARA, Anugu et al. 2023

About 16,000 light-years away, a massive star experienced an unusual dimming event. This can happen in binary stars when one star passes in front of the other. It can also be due to intrinsic reasons like innate variability. But this star dimmed by as much as one-third, a huge amount.

What happened?

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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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Vampire Stars Get Help from a Third Star to Feed

Artist’s impression composed of a star with a disc around it (a Be “vampire” star; foreground) and its companion star that has been stripped of its outer parts (background). Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

Some stars are stuck in bad binary relationships. A massive primary star feeds on its smaller companion, sucking gas from the companion and adding it to its own mass while diminishing its unfortunate partner. These vampire stars are called Be stars, and up until now, astronomers thought they existed in binary relationships.

But new research shows that these stars are only able to feed on their diminutive neighbour because of a third star present in the system.

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Can a Dead Star Keep Exploding?

This is an artist’s representation of AT2022tsd, an explosion in a distant galaxy. The image shows one possible explanation for the strange object. It could be a black hole accreting matter from a disk and powering a jet. Variation in the jet's direction could produce the observed rapid flashes. Image Credit: Robert L. Hurt/Caltech/IPAC

In September 2022, an automated sky survey detected what seemed to be a supernova explosion about one billion light-years away. The Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) spotted it and gave it the name AT2022tsd. But something was different about this supernova. Supernovae explode and shine brightly for months, while AT2022tsd exploded brightly and then faded within days.

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A Star Threw Off a Sun’s Worth of Material. And Then it Exploded!

Artist's conception of SN 2023ixf. One of the nearest Type II supernovae in a decade and among the brightest to date, SN 2023ixf is a young supernova. Its progenitor star exploded and the supernova was discovered earlier this year by amateur astronomer K?ichi Itagaki of Yamagata, Japan. Credit: Melissa Weiss/CfA
Artist's conception of SN 2023ixf. One of the nearest Type II supernovae in a decade and among the brightest to date, SN 2023ixf is a young supernova. Its progenitor star exploded and the supernova was discovered earlier this year by amateur astronomer K?ichi Itagaki of Yamagata, Japan. Credit: Melissa Weiss/CfA

What happens just before a massive star explodes as a supernova? To figure that out, astronomers need to look at very “young” supernovae across multiple wavelengths of light. That’s what happened when SN 2023ixf occurred in May 2023. It turns out its aging progenitor star blew off a solar mass worth of material just before it died. Now, the big question is: why?

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