10 New Space Discoveries With Crazy Cosmic Consequences

The Universe Is Teeming With Synestias

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Planetary bodies came in about two flavors, planets and ringed planets. But that family just expanded with the addition of the synestia, a much bigger cloud of vaporized rock shaped like a red blood cell.

These wispy monsters are the result of catastrophic crashes between two rapidly spinning, planet-sized chunks. The angular momentum from each body is conserved and whips up their shattered remains into a puff of molten debris “with no solid or liquid surface.”

It’s crazy to think that there’s a theoretically super-common, entirely new type of planetary body that we haven’t directly observed yet. Probably because it doesn’t last very long, maybe only 100 years, a hilariously infinitesimal span in cosmic terms.

Stars Can Be Smaller (And Colder) Than Planets

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We picture even the wimpiest stars being far more substantial than, say, a planet. But astronomers have just discovered the cutest, littlest star ever, EBLM J0555-57Ab.

It’s only 600 light-years away, and its radius and mass are only about 8 percent that of the Sun. In fact, it’s so small that it’s only a hair larger than Saturn. So it wouldn’t even be the largest planet in our solar system thanks to Jupiter. It’s even colder than some gas giant exoplanets.

EBLM J0555-57Ab really straddles the threshold of stellar mass, just barely beefy enough to fuse hydrogen into helium and avoid a fate of undignified brown dwarfiness.

TRAPPIST-1 Is Too Old For Life

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The seven-planet TRAPPIST-1 system discovered in February 2017 is a prime suspect in the search for alien life, with multiple potentially habitable planets. At least it was when its age was estimated at 500 million years old.

But new criteria, including the system’s speed around the center of the galaxy, the star’s metal content, and chemical absorption lines, suggest that the TRAPPIST family is at least as old as our solar system and potentially twice as old at 9.8 billion years.

So it’s unlikely to host life as it was probably sterilized by flares long ago, a cosmic tragedy and reminder of how rare life may be.

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