“The Tadpoles and the Flaming Star” - Runaway Stars, Clusters, and Nebulae 

The Flaming Star Nebula - IC405, seen at the bottom - is an emission/reflection nebula that is close to the runnaway star AE Aurigae. AE Aurigae is bulletting through space at an abnormally high velocity relative to its nebula. The effects of its motion can be observed within nebula IC405. This image also contains IC410 - an emission nebula - which can be seen at the top of this image. IC410 is best known for its tadpole like star forming clumps seen in its left side.

Copyright holder: Oliver Czernetz

Fact Sources: Harvard Astronomy(runaway stars)/NASA

NASA instruments detect ‘message’ coming from the Sun.

NASA have released data from the Solar Dynamics Observatory appearing to show a coded message coming from the Sun. Variations in the magnetic field detected by the SDO’s instruments have been converted into binary which appears to repeat every 512 seconds.

While the ‘message’ appears to be random at first, it was given further analysis after researchers determined it was actually a repeating pattern - something not normally occurring in nature in this way. When the ones and zeroes were converted into the grid pictured above, a message seems to appear, with a stick figure clearly visible near the centre.

NASA says the message likely has a simple explanation, although they confirmed there is “no way the message could have come from Earth. Further analysis is ongoing and we hope to explain this further in the coming weeks after further research and computer modelling.”

This is a 30-micron thick slice of ureilite meteorite under a microscope with polarized light. The colors reveled show different levels of magnesium and iron in olivine and pyroxene crystals. The shattered appearance reflects how the former asteroid smashed from an impact, the heat from which caused the crystals to fuse back together with the carbon filling in the spaces in between.

Geologists at our Museum of Natural History study them to learn more about the formation of our solar system. 

“There is a lot of information in ureilites,” says geologist Cari Corrigan . “They help us understand what type of materials are out there in the asteroid belt and the kind of activity happening. It’s not as simple as rocks banging into each other―it takes a lot of pressure to turn carbon into diamonds!”

Read more on Smithsonian Science News

Wandering Jupiter cleared path like a wrecking ball

Jupiter may have swept through the early solar system destroying a first generation of inner planets before retreating into its current orbit, according to a new study. The findings help explain why our solar system is so different from the hundreds of other planetary systems that astronomers have discovered in recent years.

"Now that we can look at our own solar system in the context of all these other planetary systems, one of the most interesting features is the absence of planets inside the orbit of Mercury," said Gregory Laughlin, professor and chair of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz.

"One of the predictions of our theory is that truly Earth-like planets, with solid surfaces and modest atmospheric pressures, are rare," he said.

Planet hunters have detected well over a thousand exoplanets orbiting stars in our galaxy, including nearly 500 systems with multiple planets. What has emerged from these observations as the “typical” planetary system is one consisting of a few planets with masses several times larger than the Earth’s (called super-Earths) orbiting much closer to their host star than Mercury is to the sun. In systems with giant planets similar to Jupiter, they also tend to be much closer to their host stars than the giant planets in our solar system. The rocky inner planets of our solar system, with relatively low masses and thin atmospheres, may turn out to be fairly anomalous.

Read more about the path Jupiter cleared for our unusual solar system


This is an acrylic painting made by University of Utah astrophysicist Ben Bromley. He envisions the view of a double sunset from an uninhabited Earthlike planet orbiting a pair of binary stars (a star system consisting of two stars orbiting around their common center of mass).

Earth-like worlds with two suns in their skies, like planet of Tatooine in Star Wars, may be widespread throughout the Milky Way galaxy. Although a number of gaseous exoplanets have already been spotted in two-star systems, many astronomers had thought that rocky, potentially habitable worlds could not take shape in an environment with such complex and chaotic orbital dynamics. But mathematical simulations suggest otherwise, a new study reports.

"It is just as easy to make an Earth-like planet around a binary star as it is [to do so] around a single star like our sun," study lead author Ben Bromley, of the University of Utah, said in a statement. "So we think that Tatooines may be common in the universe."