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Proxima Centauri might be more Sun-like than we thought

11 October 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers recently announced that the nearby star Proxima Centauri hosts an Earth-sized planet in its habitable zone. Proxima Centauri is a small, cool, red dwarf star only one-tenth as massive and one-thousandth as luminous as the Sun. However, new research shows that it is Sun-like in one surprising way: it has a regular cycle of starspots.

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Pirouetting Pleiads provide clues to stellar structure and evolution

13 August 2016 Astronomy Now

Like cosmic ballet dancers, the stars of the Pleiades cluster are spinning, but all at different speeds. By watching these stellar dancers, NASA’s Kepler space telescope has helped amass the most complete catalogue of rotation periods for stars in a cluster. This information can provide insight into where and how planets form around these stars, and how such stars evolve.

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Astronomers find giant planet around very young star CI Tauri

27 May 2016 Astronomy Now

Contradicting the long-standing idea that large Jupiter-mass planets take a minimum of 10 million years to form, astronomers have just announced the discovery of a giant planet in close orbit around a 2 million-year-old star that still retains a disc of circumstellar gas and dust. CI Tau b is at least eight times larger than Jupiter and 450 light-years from Earth.

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Stars nearly as old as Sun found to have similar spin rates

17 May 2016 Astronomy Now

Astrophysicists from Germany and America have for the first time measured the rotation periods of stars in a cluster nearly as old as the Sun. It turns out that these stars spin once in about twenty-six days — just like our Sun. This discovery significantly strengthens what is known as the solar-stellar connection, a fundamental principle that guides much of modern solar and stellar astrophysics.

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‘Starspot’ images of nearby star give insights into early Sun

4 May 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have used interferometry to create a time-lapse of the nearby star zeta Andromedae over one of its 18-day rotations that show starspots — sunspots outside our solar system. The pattern of spots on the star is very different from their typical arrangement on our Sun, challenging current theories of how stars’ magnetic fields influence their evolution.