Heavens

The young star HBC 672 is known by its nickname of Bat Shadow because of its wing-like shadow feature. The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has now observed a curious "flapping" motion in the shadow of the star's disc for the first time. The star resides in a stellar nursery called the Serpens Nebula, about 1300 light-years away.

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory's Large Angle Spectrometric Coronagraph (LASCO) instrument identified the 4000th comet discovered by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), a joint mission between the European Space Agency and NASA on June 15.

LASCO, which is aboard SOHO, was developed in 1995 to see the extremely faint emission from the region around the Sun called the corona. Operating in space for nearly 25 years, the telescope has seen much more space action than researchers originally anticipated -- discovering well over half of all known comets.

Astronomers this month released the largest collection of sharp, detailed images of debris disks around young stars, showcasing the great variety of shapes and sizes of stellar systems during their prime planet-forming years. Surprisingly, nearly all showed evidence of planets.

Out beyond our solar system, visible only as the smallest dot in space with even the most powerful telescopes, other worlds exist. Many of these worlds, astronomers have discovered, may be much larger than Earth and completely covered in water -- basically ocean planets with no protruding land masses. What kind of life could develop on such a world? Could a habitat like this even support life?

An exoplanet the size of Neptune has been discovered around the young star AU Microscopii, thanks in part to the work of Jonathan Gagné, a former iREx Banting postdoctoral researcher who is now a scientific advisor at the Rio Tinto Alcan Planetarium.

Astrophysicists have been searching for exoplanets in this system, a unique laboratory for studying planetary formation, for more than a decade. The breakthrough, announced today in Nature, was made possible in part by NASA's TESS and Spitzer space telescopes.

New research published today in Nature reports the discovery of a planet about the size of Neptune orbiting an especially young, nearby star. The planet, named AU Mic b, is orbiting AU Microscopii, which is relatively close to the Milky Way at 31.9 light years away. AU Microscopii is also "only" 20 or 30 million years old--at least 150 times younger than our Sun.

Understanding how planets form is one of the main challenges scientists face when placing our own and other planetary systems in context. Planets are thought to form from the disk-shaped clouds of gas and dust that surround newborn stars, but this process has never been observed. Astronomers normally only observe planets after they have already formed and have to deduce the pathways that that led to their final states.

Astronomers study stars and planets much younger than the Sun to learn about past events that shaped the Solar System and Earth. Most of these stars are far enough away to make observations challenging, even with the largest telescopes. But now this is changing.

University of Hawai'i at Mānoa astronomers are part of an international team that recently discovered an infant planet around a nearby young star. The discovery was reported Wednesday in the international journal Nature.

Recreating extreme conditions in the lab, like those in the interior of planets and stars, is very complex and can only be achieved for fractions of a second. An international research team led by the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) has now presented a new, very precise method of evaluating the behavior of mixtures of different elements under high pressure with the help of X-ray scattering.

Why is our Universe made of matter? Why does everything exist as we know it? These questions are linked to one of the most important unsolved problems in particle physics. This problem is that of the nature of the neutrino, which could be its own antiparticle, as argued by the unfortunate Italian genius Ettore Majorana almost a century ago. If this were so, it could explain the mysterious cosmic asymmetry between matter and antimatter.

An international research collaboration, including Northwestern University astronomers, has detected a mystery object inside the puzzling area known as the "mass gap" -- the range that lies between the heaviest known neutron star and the lightest known black hole. The finding has important implications for astrophysics and the understanding of low-mass compact objects.

A highly unusual gravitational wave signal, detected by the LIGO and Virgo observatories in the US and Italy, was generated by a new class of binary systems (two astronomical objects orbiting around each other), an international team of astrophysicists has confirmed.

Scientists from the LIGO and Virgo Collaboration, which includes researchers from the Institute for Gravitational Wave Astronomy at the University of Birmingham, detected the signal, named GW190814, in August 2019.

Researchers have found that rocky exoplanets which formed early in the life of the galaxy seem to have had a greater chance of developing a magnetic field and plate tectonics than planets which formed later. As both these conditions are considered favourable to the development of life, this means that if life exists in the Galaxy, it may have developed earlier than later, and that planets formed more recently may have less chance of developing life.

As lead scientist, planetary researcher Craig O'Neill said,

The accretion of new material during Pluto's formation may have generated enough heat to create a liquid ocean that has persisted beneath an icy crust to the present day, despite the dwarf planet's orbit far from the sun in the cold outer reaches of the solar system.

This "hot start" scenario, presented in a paper published June 22 in Nature Geoscience, contrasts with the traditional view of Pluto's origins as a ball of frozen ice and rock in which radioactive decay could have eventually generated enough heat to melt the ice and form a subsurface ocean.

The Earth‐Moon system's history remains mysterious. Scientists believe the two formed when a Mars‐sized body collided with the proto‐Earth. Earth ended up being the larger daughter of this collision and retained enough heat to become tectonically active. The Moon, being smaller, likely cooled down faster and geologically 'froze'. The apparent early dynamism of the Moon challenges this idea.