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Study confirms that novae are main source of lithium in the universe

3 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Lithium, like the majority of chemical elements, can trace its origins back to astrophysical phenomena, but its point of genesis was unclear. Recently, a group of researchers detected enormous quantities of beryllium-7 — an unstable element which decays into lithium — inside nova V5668 Sgr, which suggests that novae are the main source of lithium in the galaxy.

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Discovery of binary-binary calls solar system formation into question

20 October 2016 Astronomy Now

University of Florida astronomers have discovered the first “binary-binary” — two massive companions around one star in a close binary system, one so-called giant planet and one brown dwarf, or “failed star.” For such large companion objects to be stable so close together defies our current popular theories on how solar systems form.

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Preparing to study the Epoch of Reionisation

11 October 2016 Astronomy Now

The epoch when the very first stars appeared is a key period of cosmic history. These stars began the manufacture of the chemical elements (those heavier than hydrogen and helium) and their light began the reionisation of the neutral cosmic gas. These stars thus mark the dawn of the universe as we know it today and the start of the so-called Epoch of Reionisation.

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Surprising discovery of molecular oxygen on comet 67P

29 October 2015 Astronomy Now

ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has made the first in situ detection of oxygen molecules outgassing from Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a surprising observation that suggests they were incorporated into the comet during its formation. This may have implications for our understanding of the chemistry involved in the formation of the solar system some 4.6 billion years ago.

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Peeking into our galaxy’s stellar nursery

6 October 2015 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have long turned their telescopes to the wide swaths of interstellar medium to get a look at the formation and birth of stars. A team of international researchers has just released the most comprehensive images anyone has ever seen of the Milky Way’s cold interstellar gas clouds where new stars and solar systems are being born.

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A bubbly cosmic celebration of star birth

31 May 2015 Astronomy Now

In the brightest region of this glowing nebula called RCW 34, gas is heated dramatically by young stars and expands through the surrounding cooler gas, bursting outwards into the vacuum like the contents of an uncorked champagne bottle. But RCW 34 has more to offer than a few bubbles; there seem to have been multiple episodes of star formation within the same cloud.

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The dwarf galaxy that reveals the history of the universe

24 March 2015 Astronomy Now

Dwarf galaxy I Zw 18 stands out for its extreme scarcity of heavy elements, a characteristic typical of primeval galaxies. A map of ionised helium in the galaxy has just been published, indicating the presence of peculiar stars similar to the first that ever shone in the universe.