Solar System Much Like Ours Found Forming Around Alien Star

Astronomers found a young solar system, looking much like our own did, billions of years in the past. Located 470 light years from Earth, the star DM Tau is surrounded by a disk of dust and gas, which show two rings where planets are forming, located at roughly the same distances as the asteroid belt and Neptune in our own solar system. The star, believed to be between three and five million years old, is seen in the constellation of Taurus the Bull.

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What a Dusty Solar System We Have! Here’s What Astronomers Found Hiding in the Mess

For several years, astronomers have known that rings of dust follow the planets Earth and Venus in their journeys around the Sun. Researchers have now found a similar ring of dust also accompanies Mercury in its orbit, much to the surprise of astronomers, who believed any system like this would be driven away by the Sun. Our own ring is produced by collisions between bodies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, but computer simulations have shown the ring bonded with Venus is likely the result of a previously-unknown asteroid belt around the orbit of that planet.

Read More What a Dusty Solar System We Have! Here’s What Astronomers Found Hiding in the Mess

Massive Binary Stars Found Cuddling Together in Stellar Nursery

Astronomers at The University of Leeds have found a pair of massive binary stars orbiting closer to each other than any system ever seen before. The star PDS 27, once thought to be a single star, was found to be just one member of a binary pair. The two stars orbit each other at a distance roughly equal to that between the Sun and Neptune. Roughly one-third of all stars in our galaxy are in systems containing two or more stars.

Read More Massive Binary Stars Found Cuddling Together in Stellar Nursery

Water Seen Hopping Around the Surface of the Moon

The Moon was once thought to be a barren place, devoid of all water. But, in the last few years, several spacecraft have found water ice hidden within craters on our planetary companion. Now, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has found evidence that molecules of water are bouncing around the lunar surface. As ice is heated in one area, it moves to another nearby place, where it falls into shadow, and freezes once more on the surface of the Moon. Water will be a vital resource as humans populate the Solar System, and the Moon may be the first stopping-off point on the way to the planets.

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Hubble and Gaia Team Up to Measure the Mass of the Milky Way

The mass of the Milky Way Galaxy is a question that has long puzzled astronomers and astrophysicists. Estimates ranged from between 500 billion to three trillion times the mass of our Sun. A new study looked at globular clusters, groupings of a million or so stars surrounding the Milky Way. By measuring the velocity at which they circled our galaxy, as measured by the Hubble Space Telescope and the Gaia Telescope, astronomers determined the Milky Way has a mass around one-and-a-half trillion times as great as our Sun.

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Binary Stars May be Likely to Harbor Life, After All

Binary stars may be more likely to harbor life than once believed. Astronomers thought, until now, that life was unlikely to form in systems containing two or more stars. However, a new computer model developed by an undergraduate student of astronomy shows that as binary stars form in stellar nurseries, they are often passed by a third sun. Gravity from this passer-by can draw the two binary stars closer together, increasing the amount of area warm enough for liquid water to pool on planets. Water is necessary for life on Earth to exist, and planets with water are thought to be more likely to harbor life.

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Can Quantum Computing Unlock the Secrets of Black Holes?

Using a revolutionary new technology known as a quantum computer, researchers have developed an answer to one of the great questions in cosmology. Astrophysicists have long questioned whether information about a particle, such as its spin, is lost or retained after it crosses into the area near a black hole from which light can not escape – the event horizon. This new research shows that information like this gets lost, as it is mixed in with all the energy and matter within the event horizon of a black hole. Individual bits in ordinary digital computers can only be set as ones and zeros, while qubits utilize quantum states to store data. Once fully developed, quantum computers will be able to take problems that would take millions of years for today’s computers to solve, and answer them in days.

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Want to Blow Up an Asteroid? It’s Harder than You Think

Science fiction is filled with stories of astronauts blowing up asteroids just before they strike the Earth. But, doing so could be even worse than doing nothing, as fragments of these bodies could impact the Earth in multiple locations, like a shotgun blast. Now, new research from Johns Hopkins University shows even attempting to blow up an asteroid might prove futile. Computer models of impacts between two asteroids show that such events would likely result in short-term fragmenting of the bodies, but these pieces would come together again within hours, recreating a mass much like the original asteroid. Researchers are on the lookout for asteroids and comets heading toward the Earth that could endanger areas from small cities to the entire planet.

Read More Want to Blow Up an Asteroid? It’s Harder than You Think

The Big Mystery of the Kuiper Belt — a Lack of Small Objects

The Kuiper Belt contains few small bodies, according to a new report from the Southwest Research Institute. This collection of rocks and ice surrounds our planetary system like a massive doughnut, larger than the orbit of Neptune. Photographs taken of Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, show few craters, suggesting that the Kuiper Belt, in which Pluto resides, contains few small objects, less than a mile in diameter. Researchers are uncertain why the grouping contains so few small bodies.

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Stars Fly Past Planet, Saving World from Isolation

Astronomers have long theorized that planetary systems can be affected by stars passing near solar systems. However, direct evidence of this has never been seen, until now.
Sitting 300 light years from Earth, the star HD 106906 is accompanied by a planet 11 times the size of Jupiter, orbiting the pair of binary stars 738 times further away than the distance between the Earth and the Sun. Computer simulations show that roughly 12 million years ago, another pair of stars passed the system, altering the orbit of this giant world, pulling it far from its stellar companions. Had the encounter not taken place, this world would have crashed into the stars around which it orbits.

Read More Stars Fly Past Planet, Saving World from Isolation