Betelgeuse’s Recent Dimming Likely Caused by a Dusty Outburst

From October 2019 to February 2020, Betelgeuse (the bright orange star at Orion’s right shoulder, not Tim Burton’s magical necroprankster) was seen to dim dramatically, even more so than it typically does. It was something that wasn’t just observed with telescopes but also it was quite obvious to the naked eye from most locations. This…

Solar Orbiter’s First Images Reveal the Sun Covered With Tiny “Campfires”

The pictures are in! The first image data from the cameras aboard ESA’s Solar Orbiter were revealed today, July 16 2020, and reveal many features on our Sun we’ve never been able to see before—including small-scale flare activity dubbed “campfires.” (I say small-scale but they’re actually the size of entire countries!) “The Sun might look…

Neptune-sized Planet Found Around a Baby Star 32 Light-years Away

Astronomers using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and data from the now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope  have announced the discovery of a Neptune-sized exoplanet orbiting AU Microscopii (AU Mic for short), a red M-dwarf star 31.93 light-years away and only about 20 to 30 million years old. The star is so young that it’s still…

Thousands of Black Holes Surround the Heart of our Galaxy

(From NASA’s Image of the Day, June 19, 2020) Astronomers have discovered evidence for thousands of black holes located near the center of our Milky Way galaxy using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. This black hole bounty consists of stellar-mass black holes, which typically weigh between five to 30 times the mass of our Sun….

New Horizons is Far Enough from Earth to See an “Alien Sky”

(News from JHUAPL) For the first time, a spacecraft has sent back pictures of the sky from so far away that some stars appear to be in different positions than we see from Earth. More than four billion miles from home and speeding toward interstellar space, NASA’s New Horizons has traveled so far that it…

This is Our Most Detailed Image of the Sun’s “Surface”

The first image from the National Solar Observatory’s Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope shows the “surface” (i.e., the photosphere) of our Sun in the highest resolution ever obtained, revealing structures as small as 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) wide squeezed between cells of convective activity—many of them considerably larger than the state of Texas!

NGC 6441: One of the Milky Way’s Most Massive Star Clusters

(NASA’s image of the day on June 5, 2020) Almost like snowflakes, the stars of the globular cluster NGC 6441 sparkle peacefully in the night sky, about 13,000 light-years from the Milky Way’s galactic center. Like snowflakes, the exact number of stars in such a cluster is difficult to discern. It is estimated that together…

Hypothesized First-Gen Stars Remain Unseen in Hubble Deep Views

(News from NASA) New results from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope suggest the formation of the first stars and galaxies in the early universe took place sooner than previously thought. A European team of astronomers have found no evidence of the first generation of stars, known as Population III stars, as far back as when…

A Dusty Twist Marks the Site of a New Planet’s Birth

  All of the planets in our Solar System formed from a disk of dust and gas surrounding our home star—the Sun—about four and a half billion years ago. Many—maybe even most—of the stars we see in the sky have planets orbiting them, and they all probably formed the same way. But planetary formation is…

The Glowing Shroud of a Newborn Star

Here’s another of my processed Hubble data images: it’s a look into the star-forming region “S106,” made from data captured in infrared wavelengths on Feb. 13, 2011. Here, a newborn star is in the process of blasting away a clear space while still surrounded by the cloud of dust and hydrogen gas it formed within.

Scientists Use “Sunglasses” to See Bands of Clouds on a Brown Dwarf

(News via Caltech) Astronomers have detected what appear to be bands of clouds streaking across the surface of a cool star-like body known as a brown dwarf. The bands, resembling those that stripe the surface of Jupiter, were discovered using polarimetry, a technique that works in the same way that polarized sunglasses block out the…

Astronomers Find the Closest Black Hole to Earth

(Via ESO) A team of astronomers from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) and other institutes has discovered a black hole lying just 1000 light-years from Earth. The black hole is closer to our Solar System than any other found to date and forms part of a triple system that can be seen with the naked…