Sometimes it Rains on the Sun

(Updated post from 2013) The Sun is awesome. I mean, never mind that it contains 99% of all the mass in the Solar System, that it supplies our planet with the energy needed to sustain life, that its constantly-blowing solar wind helps keep some of those nasty cosmic particles out of the planetary neighborhood, and…

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…

Solar Orbiter is Now Capturing the Closest-Ever Pictures of the Sun

(News from ESA) On June 15, 2020, the ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter spacecraft made its first close approach to the Sun (perihelion), coming within 77 million kilometers (48 million miles) of its surface—about half the distance between the Sun and Earth. Over the next week mission scientists will test the spacecraft’s ten science instruments, including the six…

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!

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.

Antares is a Bug-Eyed Monster 700 Times Bigger Than Our Sun

From a “mere” 93 million miles away we’re able to view the surface of our home star the Sun very well with telescopes on Earth and in space…you can even observe large sunspots with your unaided eye (with proper protection, of course.) But the surface details of other stars tens, hundreds, or thousands of light-years…

NOAA and NASA Open a New Set of Eyes on the Sun

Look out SDO—there’s another set of eyes watching the Sun in a wide swath of wavelengths! The images above are the first from the Solar Ultraviolet Imager (SUVI) instrument aboard NOAA’s new GOES-16 satellite, positioned in a geostationary orbit about 22,200 miles from Earth. These are SUVI’s first successful test images, captured on Jan. 29, 2017; once fully…

Seven Earth-sized Exoplanets Discovered Around a Single Nearby Star!

In what’s being called a “record-breaking exoplanet discovery” NASA announced today the detection of not one, not two, not three or four but seven exoplanets orbiting the ultra-cool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1, located just under 40 light-years away in the constellation Aquarius. (That’s astronomically very close, although still 235 trillion miles distant.) What’s more, these exoplanets aren’t bloated hot…

This Star in Our Galaxy is Almost as Old as the Entire Universe

Like anything else, stars have life spans. They are born (from collapsing clouds of interstellar dust), they go through a long main phase where they fuse various elements in their cores, and eventually they die when they run out of fuel. The finer details of these steps are based on what the star is made of, how…

Planet Nine May Have Once Been an Exoplanet

It hasn’t even been found yet (they’re still working on that) but the recently-announced Planet Nine is already spurring discussion amongst the world’s astronomers. One of the recent topics surrounding this alleged new planet is (again, besides where it’s hiding) how it formed and how it got into the incredibly distant orbit it’s thought to be…