Sun as a Star: How Does It Compare?

Not too many years ago, our sun was described as a common, ordinary star.  More recently, the Type G2 Dwarf Main-Sequence class, of which Ol Sol is a member, is believed to comprise only 5% of all stars.  An important paper in Astrophysical Journal is now revealing that the sun is special within its class: […]

Supernova 80% Younger Than Thought

The age of a supernova remnant has dropped from 10,000 years to less than 2,000 years.  According to a news item on, the object RCW 86 in Centaurus has been linked to sightings by the Chinese in 185 AD, making it the oldest supernova recorded by man, taking place 1821 years ago.     […]

Theory Battles Observations in Near-Field Cosmology

Which is more important in science: a consistent model, or a good fit with observations?  Clearly both would be the ideal.  A report in Science1 this week revealed that astronomers are having trouble holding the two together.  The problem is especially acute for near-field cosmology that deals with nearby galaxies.     It may seem […]

Orion Nebula Revealed in Hubble Splendor

The Hubble Space Telescope’s new mosaic image of the Orion Nebula (M42) made Astronomy Picture of the Day.  For those of us who grew up admiring the old Palomar observatory’s photo of it, the upgrade is worth a thousand words.  This is a keeper.  The next day, APOD posted a portion of the image that […]

Dust Bunny Lays Planet Eggs

Where do planets come from?  The Dust Bunny.  That’s a line coming from a press release from the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy.  They measured spectra of gas and dust at radio and infrared wavelengths around a sunlike star, and concluded the dust was collecting.  “This suggests that the dust particles are sticking together, […]

Astronomers See Poison Around Star, Think Life

The Spitzer Space Telescope discovered acetylene and hydrogen cyanide, two deadly gases, around a star.  Some astronomers got all excited and thought of the birth of life.  The title of a press release from Jet Propulsion Laboratory read, “Partial ingredients for DNA and protein found around star.”  The two carbon-containing substances were found in the […]

Echoes of Historic Supernovae Observed

Astronomers using telescopes at the Cerro-Tololo observatory in Chile were able to detect the faint light echoes of supernovae (see EurekAlert, and original paper in Nature1).  They found three light echoes for six of the smallest previously-catalogued supernova remnants (SNR) in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), a small irregular galaxy visible from the southern […]

A New Way to Make Stars, Or One Old Way Discredited?

Several news sources sounded a rather triumphant note that astronomers are figuring out how stars form.  In actuality, the paper by Krumholz, McKee and Klein in Nature1 did more to discredit a competitive theory than to establish their own.  That competitive theory, ironically, is called “competitive accretion” and posits that clumps of material add up […]

Grown Man in the Stellar Crib: Now What?

The cover of Science News has a strange cartoon explained on the inside in an article by Ron Cowen: Imagine peering into a nursery and seeing, among the cooing babies, a few that look like grown men.  That’s the startling situation that astronomers have stumbled upon as they’ve looked deep into space and thus back […]

Planets Can Form Rapidly

Observations by the Spitzer Space Telescope, announced in a JPL press release, “pose a challenge to existing theories of giant planet formation, especially those in which planets build up gradually over millions of years.”  Three young stars show clearings in dust disks surrounding them, suggesting that gas giant planets inhabit the clearings and must have […]

First-Generation Star Claim Discounted

e first generation of stars, made of pure hydrogen, might have been detected, are now shown to be erroneous (this is an update on the 04/24/2003 entry).  Iwamoto et al. in Science1 have shown that the two hyper-metal-poor stars are actually second-generation stars, seeded with heavy elements by supernovae.     Timothy C. Beers (Michigan […]

Vega Has a Neptune?

The BBC News and EurekAlert are pretty excited about a discovery at Vega, the sapphire-blue star that hangs overhead in summertime (from the Northern Hemisphere; Aussies see it at the horizon).  Astronomers think they see a clump of material that might be at the distance from the star similar to Neptune’s distance from the sun.  […]

How Did Blue Stars Get So Close to a Black Hole?

Every solution breeds new problems, Murphy’s Law suggests.  Astronomers working with the Hubble Space Telescope feel that pain.  While finding confirming evidence for a supermassive black hole at the center of the Andromeda Galaxy M31, they are perplexed to see a disk of hot blue stars orbiting it too close for comfort.  Estimated to be […]

Some Exoplanets May Be Exostars

A brown dwarf was measured with more precision, and was found to be more massive than expected.  Robert Roy Britt in says this may call into question some of the discoveries of bodies orbiting other stars that were assumed to be planets.  I. Neill Reid,1 writing in Nature where the measurement was announced,2 explained […]
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