Comment »Posted on Saturday 13 June 2009 at 4:41 pm by Jacob Aron
In Space & Astronomy

Three stories for you today from the great big universe out there. First up, astronomers have found evidence for the birth of a new planet orbiting a binary star system. A rotating molecular disk formed around a pair of stars known as V4046 Sagittarii is thought to be a planet in the making. It is also first confirmation that planets can emerge from binary star systems, giving us new places to look in the search for other planets. David Wilner of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics says:

“This is strong evidence that planets can form around binary stars, which expands the number of places we can look for extrasolar planets. Somewhere in our galaxy, an alien world may enjoy double sunrises and double sunsets.”

Whilst that star system is growing, another one is getting smaller. The red supergiant Betelgeuse, located in the top left of the constellation Orion, has shrunk by 15% in 15 years.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have been monitoring the star, but don’t know the cause for the shrinkage. Betelgeuse is about ten times wider than the distance from the Earth to the Sun, meaning it has shrunk be a distance equivalent to the orbit of Venus.

Discoveries like these could get harder to make in the future however. Light pollution now means that one fifth of the world’s population cannot see the Milky Way in the night sky. Those missing out are mostly in mainland Europe, the UK and the US, according to Connie Walker, an astronomer from the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory in Tucson, Arizona. She presented her findings to the American Astronomical Society at a meeting this Wednesday.

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