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.
Several thousand years ago, a star some 160,000 light-years away from us exploded, scattering stellar shrapnel across the sky. The aftermath of this Type Ia supernova is shown here in this striking image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The exploding star was a white dwarf located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a close neighbouring galaxy.
Astronomers have discovered a new type of exotic binary star. In the system AR Scorpii a rapidly spinning white dwarf star powers electrons up to almost the speed of light. These high energy particles release blasts of radiation that lash the companion red dwarf star, and cause the entire system to pulse dramatically every 1.97 minutes with radiation ranging from the ultraviolet to radio.
This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image captures the remnants of a long-dead star. These rippling wisps of ionised gas, named DEM L316A, are the remains of an especially energetic Type Ia supernova located some 160,000 light-years away within one of the Milky Way’s closest galactic neighbours — the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC).
A group of researchers using the W. M. Keck Observatory have discovered a planet-like body that may have been encrusted in limestone and is having its surface layers devoured by its deceased host star. The team found that the rocky material being accreted by the star could be comprised of minerals that are typically associated with marine life processes here on Earth.
Some supernovae have a reserve tank of radioactive cobalt-57 fuel that cuts in and powers their explosions for three times longer than astronomers had previously thought. The discovery by Australian and US researchers gives important new clues about the causes of Type Ia supernovae, which astronomers use to measure vast distances across the universe.
Two black holes in nearby galaxies have been observed in X-rays by ESA’s XMM-Newton space observatory devouring their companion stars at a rate exceeding classically understood limits, and in the process, kicking out matter into surrounding space at astonishing speeds of around a quarter the speed of light.
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.
While truly massive stars go out in a blaze of glory, intermediate-mass stars — those between roughly one and eight times the mass of the Sun — are somewhat quieter. Such stars eventually form cosmic objects known as planetary nebulae, so named because of their vague resemblance to planets when seen through early, low-resolution telescopes.