Using lasers to study how star stuff is made

On a typical day at the world’s biggest laser, the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in Livermore, California, you can find scientists casually making star-like conditions using 192 high-powered lasers. Stars in the universe are formed through a process called nucleosynthesis, which fuses lighter atoms to create new heavier atomic nuclei. Natural elements found here on … Read more

Feeding a baby star through a whirlpool in space

An international research team, led by Chin-Fei Lee at Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics (ASIAA, Taiwan), has detected a pair of spiral arms in an accretion disk around a protostar (baby star), using the Atacama Large Millimeter/ submillimeter Array (ALMA). Interestingly, these spiral density enhancements make the disk appear like a “space whirlpool.” … Read more

A Pair of Fledgling Planets Directly Seen Growing Around a Young Star

Astronomers have directly imaged two exoplanets that are gravitationally carving out a wide gap within a planet-forming disk surrounding a young star. While over a dozen exoplanets have been directly imaged, this is only the second multi-planet system to be photographed. (The first was a four-planet system orbiting the star HR 8799.) Unlike HR 8799, … Read more

Galaxies are cosmic cauldrons heated by star formation

Star formation within interstellar gas clouds proceeds very rapidly, yet highly inefficiently. Most of the gas is quickly dispersed by stellar radiation, revealing galaxies to be highly dynamic systems, like “cosmic cauldrons”, consisting of building blocks that constantly change their appearance. A team of scientists led by astrophysicist Dr. Diederik Kruijssen from Heidelberg University has … Read more