You can never predict what treasure might be hiding in your own basement. A researcher looking for a spectrum of a white dwarf known as van Maanen’s star found a 1917 image on an astronomical glass plate from the Carnegie Observatories’ collection that shows the first-ever evidence of a planetary system beyond our own Sun.
Records are made to be broken, as the expression goes, but rarely are records left so thoroughly in the dust. Stunned astronomers have witnessed a cosmic explosion about 200 times more powerful than a typical supernova — events which already rank amongst the mightiest outbursts in the universe — and more than twice as luminous as the previous record-holding supernova.
New information about the way mature stars spin indicates that one recently developed method for determining a star’s age needs to be recalibrated for stars that are older than our Sun, as spin rate is one of the few windows into stellar ages. This has implications for our own solar system, as our own Sun might be on the cusp of a transition in its magnetic field.