The Youngest Planetary Disks Ever Seen

The evolutionary sequence of protoplanetary disks with substructures, from the ALMA CAMPOS survey. These wide varieties of planetary disk structures are possible formation sites for young protoplanets. Image Credit: Hsieh et al. in prep.

How long does planet formation take? Maybe not as long as we thought, according to new research. Observations with the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) show that planet formation around young stars may begin much earlier than scientists thought.

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JWST Reveals a Newly-Forming Double Protostar

This new Picture of the Month from the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope reveals intricate details of the Herbig Haro object 797 (HH 797). HH 797 dominates the lower half of this image. The bright infrared objects in the upper portion of the image are thought to host two further protostars. This image was captured with Webb’s Near-InfraRed Camera (NIRCam). Image Credit: JWST/CSA/ESA/NASA

As our newest, most perceptive eye on the ongoing unfolding of the cosmos, the James Webb Space Telescope is revealing many things that were previously unseeable. One of the space telescope’s science goals is to expand our understanding of how stars form. The JWST has the power to see into the cocoons of gas and dust that hide young protostars.

It peered inside one of these cocoons and showed us that what we thought was a single star is actually a binary star.

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This Dark Nebula Hides an Enormous Star

Stars forming in this dark nebula, named G35.2-0.7N, are particularly massive and many of them will explode as supernovae. Image Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, R. Fedriani, J. Tan

The birth of a star is a spectacular event that plays out behind a veil of gas and dust. It’s a detailed process that takes millions of years to play out. Once a star leaves its protostar stage behind and begins its life of fusion, the star’s powerful radiative output blows the veil away.

But before then, astrophysicists are at a disadvantage.

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New Stars Forming Uncomfortably Close to the Milky Way’s Supermassive Black Hole

Artist view of an active supermassive black hole. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada

Astronomers examining a star cluster near Sgr A*, the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole, found that the cluster has some unusually young members for its location. That’s difficult to explain since the region so close to the powerful black hole is infused with powerful radiation and dominated by the black hole’s extremely powerful gravitational force. According to our understanding of stellar formation, young stars shouldn’t be there.

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Incredible Image Shows Twin Stellar Jets Blasting Out of a Star-Forming Region

The sinuous young stellar jet, MHO 2147, meanders lazily across a field of stars in this image captured from Chile by the international Gemini Observatory, a Program of NSF's NOIRLab. The stellar jet is the outflow from a young star that is embedded in an infrared dark cloud. Astronomers suspect its sidewinding appearance is caused by the gravitational attraction of companion stars. These crystal-clear observations were made using the Gemini South telescope’s adaptive optics system, which helps astronomers counteract the blurring effects of atmospheric turbulence. Image Credit: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA

Young stars go through a lot as they’re being born. They sometimes emit jets of ionized gas called MHOs—Molecular Hydrogen emission-line Objects. New images of two of these MHOs, also called stellar jets, show how complex they can be and what a hard time astronomers have as they try to understand them.

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SOFIA Follows the Sulfur for Clues on Stellar Evolution

SOFIA in flight.

The high-flying SOFIA telescope is shedding light on where some of the basic building blocks for life may have originated from. A recent study published on The Astrophysical Journal: Letters led by astronomers from the University of Hawaii, including collaborators from the University of California Davis, Johns-Hopkins University, the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Appalachian State University, and several international partners (including funding from NASA), looked at a lingering mystery in planet formation: the chemical pathway of the element sulfur, and its implications and role in the formation of planets and life.

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