Hole to Another Universe by Dan Golden.
Oldest Alien Planets Found—Born at Dawn of Universe
Jupiter-like worlds likely about 12.8 billion years old, study says.
Two huge planets found orbiting a star 375 light-years away are the oldest alien worlds yet discovered, scientists say.
With an estimated age of 12.8 billion years, the host star—and thus the planets—most likely formed at the dawn of the universe, less than a billion years after the big bang .
“The Milky Way itself was not completely formed yet,” said study leader Johny Setiawan , who conducted the research while at the Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Germany.
During a recent survey, Setiawan and colleagues found the signatures of the two planets orbiting the star, dubbed HIP 11952.
Based on the team’s calculations, one world is almost as massive as Jupiter and completes an orbit in roughly seven days. The other planet is nearly three times Jupiter’s mass and has an orbital period of nine and a half months.
It’s possible the planets are much younger than they seem if the worlds formed long after their star was born—but such a scenario is unlikely, the team says.
“Usually planets form just shortly after the star formation,” Setiawan said. “Second-generation planets might also form after a star has died, but this is still under debate.”
llustration courtesy Timotheos Samartzidis
Most Detailed View of a Solar Eclipse Corona
Only in the fleeting darkness of a total solar eclipse is the light of the solar corona easily visible. Normally overwhelmed by the bright solar disk, the expansive corona, the sun’s outer atmosphere, is an alluring sight.
But the subtle details and extreme ranges in the corona’s brightness, although discernible to the eye, are notoriously difficult to photograph. Pictured above, however, using multiple images and digital processing, is a detailed image of the Sun’s corona taken during the 2008 August total solar eclipse from Mongolia.
The globular cluster Messier 9 shines in this new photo from the Hubble Space Telescope. Credit: NASA & ESA
Hundreds of thousands of glittering stars shine in a cluster at the center of our galaxy in a new photograph from the Hubble Space Telescope.
The cluster is called Messier 9, and contains hordes of stars swarming in a spherical cloud about 25,000 light-years from Earth. The object is too faint to be seen with the naked eye, and when it was discovered by French astronomer Charles Messier in 1764, the scientist could only resolve it as a faint smudge that he classified as a nebula (“cloud” in Latin).
Now, though, the Hubble Space Telescope is powerful enough to make out more than 250,000 individual stars in Messier 9, in a new picture released today (March 16). The bluer points indicate hotter stars, while the redder stars are cooler.
Messier 9 is what’s known as a globular cluster, containing some of the oldest stars in the galaxy in a clump that is thought to have formed together when the universe was much younger. These stars, which are about twice as old as the sun, are made of different materials than our star. They tend to lack the sun’s heavier elements, such as oxygen, carbon and iron, which were only present in larger quantities when the universe was older.
Into the Sword of Orion
Distance: 1500 Light Years
Image Copyright Robert Gendler 2006
The region of Orion and Monoceros has unique importance as one of the great regions of active star formation in our galaxy.
Its proximity and favorable position in the sky have made this one of the most extensively studied regions in the Milky Way.
The constellation Cygnus, now visible in the western sky as twilight deepens after sunset, hosts one of our galaxy’s richest-known stellar construction zones.
Astronomers viewing the region at visible wavelengths see only hints of this spectacular activity thanks to a veil of nearby dust clouds forming the Great Rift, a dark lane that splits the Milky Way, a faint band of light marking our galaxy’s central plane.