Astronomers with the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have broken new ground in exoplanet research by directly observing a planet in another solar system using a new imaging technique. This new method provided enough detail about the far-flung planet to reveal the presence of a complex, planet-wide storm—and a strange puzzle
Astronomers have discovered what is now the smallest known star in the galaxy, in a system roughly 600 light-years from Earth. Part of a trinary star system, the smaller of the pair, EBLM J0555-57Ab, is estimated to only be 8 percent of the mass of our own Sun, in a compact package no bigger than Saturn.
This itty-bitty sun may represent the smallest size that a star can be: to sustain the hydrogen fusion process that provides a star’s energy, the gases within must be brought to a high pressure and temperature, meaning that there needs to be enough mass present in the star to provide these conditions.
An exoplanet 320 light-years from Earth has been found in a trinary star system, photographed by the ESO Very Large Telescope in Chile. Aside from having the distinction of being one of mere handful of exoplanets that have been directly imaged, the planet, labeled as HD 131399Ab, has a year that lasts 550 Earth years, as it orbits the large central star.
Civilian astronomers participating in the Kepler Planet Hunters program have identified unusual patterns in the light output of a star that is otherwise invisible to the naked eye — patterns that are being caused by an as yet unknown process. This appears to be some sort of huge debris field–or is it a field of artifacts created by an advanced alien civilization?
The star in question, KIC 8462852, is 1,500 light-years away, lies between the constellations Cygnus and Lyra. It was included as part of observations being made by the Kepler Space Telescope, which seeks signs of exoplanets around stars, by watching for dips in the stars’ light output.