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SPACE: Multiplanet System Around Sunlike Star Photographed For First Time

multiplanet system - ESO

For the first time ever, astronomers have directly imaged multiple planets orbiting a sunlike star. The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile photographed two giant planets circling TYC 8998-760-1, a very young analogue of our own sun that lies about 300 light-years from Earth, a new study reports. “This discovery is a snapshot of an environment that is very similar to our solar system, but at a much earlier stage of its evolution,” study lead author Alexander Bohn, a doctoral student at Leiden University in the Netherlands, said in a statement. Before this historic cosmic portrait, only … Read more

SPACE: Did Our Solar System Have a Cosmic Gatekeeper?

The rocky planets closest to the sun are made up of very different materials than the gas giants in the outer solar system. That’s because billions of years ago, our baby solar system was divided in two by a cosmic gatekeeper that prevented materials in the inner and outer regions from mixing. It turns out that gatekeeper was a ring of dust and gas, according to a new study. The fence, or “Great Divide,” a term coined by the authors, is now mostly empty space just inside Jupiter’s orbit. About two decades ago, chemists realized that the building blocks of … Read more

New “Atlas of Space” Shows Us the Solar System in Amazing Ways

Atlas of Space

In most maps of the solar system, you can expect to see the eight canonical planets (plus whatever Pluto is at the moment) trailing the fiery orange sun like polite little ducklings in a row. In biologist Eleanor Lutz’s new map of the solar system, which shows the precise orbital paths of more than 18,000 near celestial objects, you’ll be lucky if you can even find Mars. Lutz is a doctoral candidate at the University of Washington who spends her evenings turning public data sets into hyperdetailed works of art. In her new project, called the Atlas of Space, she’s … Read more

Did Life Begin Before the Earth Was Formed?

young solar system - NASA

Life may have arisen in our solar system before Earth even finished forming. Planetesimals, the rocky building blocks of planets, likely had all the ingredients necessary for life as we know it way back at the dawn of the solar system, said Lindy Elkins-Tanton, a planetary scientist at Arizona State University (ASU). And clement conditions may have persisted inside some planetesimals for tens of millions of years — perhaps long enough for life to emerge, said Elkins-Tanton, the director of ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration and the principal investigator of NASA’s upcoming mission to the odd metallic asteroid … Read more

SPACE: Remember FarOut? Now There’s FarFarOut

FarFarOut - Credit: R. Hurt (IPAC)/Caltech

The solar system has a new distance champ. Astronomers just found an object that lies 140 astronomical units (AU) from the sun. That’s 140 times the Earth-sun distance, which is about 93 million miles (150 million kilometers). In case you want some more perspective: Pluto orbits the sun at an average distance of about 39.5 AU. “This is hot off the presses,” Scott Sheppard, of the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., said during a public lecture last Thursday (Feb. 21) at his home institution.  Indeed, Sheppard announced the detection during that talk; it has yet to be peer-reviewed, or even … Read more

SPACE: Scientists Search for Our Mother Sun

mother sun

Image Credit: NAOJ Billions of years ago, a huge star blasted open and spewed its guts into space. At that energetic moment, the so-called core-collapse supernova formed a debris cloud of brand-new atoms, forged in the heat of its blast. Time passed. The cloud contracted, attracted to itself by its own gravity. A star formed — our sun — surrounded by chunks of rock and gas that formed our planets and other orbiting bodies. Much later, we came along. That’s the basic story of our solar system’s birth. And, mostly from watching other supernovas and other star births out in … Read more

FOR WRITERS: Getting Around the Solar System

Solar System - Pixabay

FOR WRITERS Today’s writer topic comes from QSFer Kethric Wilcox: In SciFi we’re often met with different forms of starship drives from warp drive to improbability drive as a way to cross vast distances at faster than light speed. What is your favorite drive system to use when moving your protagonist from planet A to planet Z? Join the chat

SPACE: Are We Missing a Planet?

planet - pixabay

An asteroid that slammed into the Sudan desert on Oct. 7, 2008, shot out lots of little space rocks holding a precious secret: diamonds that likely formed billions of years ago inside the embryo of a now-decimated planet. That lost planet was the size of Mercury or perhaps Mars, researchers now say. In the space rocks, which are also called meteorites, researchers found compounds common to diamonds on Earth, such as chromite, phosphate and iron-nickel sulfides. It’s the first time these diamond components have been found in an extraterrestrial body, the researchers said in a new study describing the findings. … Read more