Stars

Artist impression of the protoplanetary disc surrounding the young star MWC 480. ALMA has detected the complex organic molecule methyl cyanide in its outer reaches (Image B. Saxton (NRAO/AUI/NSF))

For many years, scientists have known that complex molecules can form in space, including some important in the birth of life forms. This month, two studies have been published that prove the presence of various molecules of this type in an infant solar system and even in protostellar clouds in which Sun-like stars are formed together with their planets.

Supernova in the galaxy M82 captured by the Swift satellite. Mid-ultraviolet light is shown in blue, near-UV light in green and visible light in red (Image NASA/Swift/P. Brown, TAMU)

A research conducted by a team led by astronomer Peter A. Milne of the University of Arizona published in two articles in the “Astrophysical Journal” shows that Type Ia supernovae can be divided into two groups with different characteristics. For years, astronomers had thought that their brightness depended almost exclusively on their distance. This can have consequences on our knowledge of the universe expansion, also calculated based on this type of supernovae.

Data from the SOFIA airborne telescope shows dust surviving within a supernova remnants (Image NASA/CXO/Herschel/VLA/Lau et al)

In the journal “Science” an article was just published that discusses a research conducted by an international team of scientists who found evidence that supernovae can generate a sufficient amount of material that can later create new planets like Earth. This team, led by Ryan Lau of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, studied in particular a supernova that exploded about 10,000 years ago using a special instrument, the airborne telescope SOFIA.

The sky around the double star V471 Tauri, visible in low luminosity in the middle of the image (Image ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2)

SPHERE (Spectro-Polarimetric High-contrast Exoplanet REsearch) is an instrument built especially to take direct pictures of exoplanets but the first scientific article based on its observations was about the binary system V471 Tauri. A group of astronomers led by Adam Hardy carried out this research, published in the journal “Astrophysical Journal Letters”, explaining why it led to a surprise.

The astronomers expected that there was a brown dwarf orbiting this double star but SPHERE didn’t find anything. It’s a surprising result because the presence of a brown dwarf was by far the most plausible explanation for the strange behavior of V471 Tauri.