Sunspots are common on our Sun. These darker patches are cooler than their surroundings, and they’re caused by spikes in magnetic flux that inhibit convection. Without convection, those areas cool and darken.
Lots of other stars have sunspots, too. But Red Giants (RGs) don’t. Or so astronomers thought.
A new study shows that some RGs do have spots, and that they rotate faster than thought.
Continue reading “1 in 10 Red Giants are Covered in Spots, and They Rotate Surprisingly Quickly”
In the beginning, the big bang created three elements: hydrogen, helium, and lithium. But it only produced a trace of lithium. For every lithium atom created, the big bang produced about 10 billion hydrogen atoms, and 3 billion helium atoms. The ratio of primordial elements is one of the triumphs of the big bang model. It predicts the ratio of hydrogen (H) and helium (4He) perfectly, and even works for the ratios of other isotopes, such as deuterium (2H) and helium-3 (3He). But it doesn’t work for lithium, and we aren’t sure why.
Continue reading “Stars Like Our Sun Become Lithium Factories as They Die”
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”
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”
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?”
It’s easy to run out of superlatives and adjectives when your puny human language is trying to describe humongously-energetic events in the Universe. So now it’s down to this: a really powerful supernova is a “super-supernova.”
But whatever name we give it, it’s a monster. A monsternova.
Continue reading “Super-Supernova Released Ten Times More Energy than a Regular Supernova”
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”
Astronomers have found a white dwarf that was once two white dwarfs. The pair of stars merged into one about 1.3 billion years ago. The resulting star, named WDJ0551+4135, is about 150 light years away.
Continue reading “Two White Dwarfs Merged Together Into a Single “Ultramassive” White Dwarf”
Some stars die a beautiful death, ejecting their outer layers of gas into space, then lighting it all up with their waning energy. When that happens, we get a nebula. Astronomers working with the Gemini Observatory just shared a new image of one of these spectacular objects.
Continue reading “Here’s a New Planetary Nebula for Your Collection: CVMP 1”
Stars live and die on epic time scales. Tens of millions of years, hundreds of millions of years, even billions of years or longer. Maybe the only thing that surpasses that epicness is when two dead stars join together and come back to life.
Continue reading “Bizarre Star Could be the Result of Two White Dwarfs Merging Together”