Massive Stars Have the Power to Shape Solar Systems

This image is a Hubble image of the inner regions in the Orion Nebula, with a JWST image of a protoplanetary disk named d203-506. The disk is close enough to the massive Trapezium Cluster stars that their UV radiation is shaping the planet-forming process in the disk. Image Credit: NASA/STSCI/RICE UNIV./C.O'DELL ET AL / O. BERNÉ, I. SCHROTTER, PDRS4ALL

Stars shape their solar systems. It’s true of ours, and it’s true of others. But for some massive stars, their power to shape still-forming systems is fateful and final.

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JWST Follows Neon Signs Toward New Thinking on Planet Formation

This artist's illustration shows the young star SZ Chamaeleontis (SZ Cha). SZ Cha is surrounded by a protoplanetary disk of gas and dust. Planets may form in the disk, but they're running out of time. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, CSA, Ralf Crawford (STScI)

Everyone knows that the James Webb Space Telescope is a ground-breaking infrared space telescope that’s helping us better understand the cosmos. The JWST’s discerning infrared eyes are deepening our understanding of everything from exoplanets to primitive galaxies to the birth of stars.

But it’s not the first ground-breaking infrared space telescope we’ve launched. There was IRAS, then ISO, then the Spitzer Space Telescope. The Spitzer is the JWST’s most recent infrared predecessor, and the JWST is observing one of the same targets that the Spitzer did, taking note of some puzzling changes.

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An Exo-Neptune Beat the Odds and Kept its Atmosphere

An artist impression of exoplanet LTT9779b orbiting its host star. Credit: Ricardo Ramírez Reyes (Universidad de Chile)

As planet-hunting scientists find more and more planets, they’ve encountered some puzzles. One of them concerns the lack of Neptune-size worlds orbiting close to their stars. Astronomers think that these planets aren’t massive enough to retain their atmospheres in the face of their stars’ powerful radiation, which strips it away.

But at least one of these planets has retained its atmosphere. How?

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