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A "Tornado" of Cosmic Matter is Whirling Around This Infant Star

A young star, in the throes of the formation of its solar system, will be surrounded by a swirling disc of gas and dust capable of spewing out a powerful, jet-like whirlwind, something scientists had never been able to observe — until now. Researchers observed the jets around a protostar about 450 light-years away using the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), which seems to be on something of a tear lately, discovery-wise. The winds lift stellar materials up from the disc as it forms the new solar system, kind of like a tornado lifting objects from the ground. The findings were published Thursday in the journal Nature.

We care about these whirlwinds because learning about them changes our assumptions about the process of planet formation. We used to think they originated from inside the protoplanetary disc’s center, but being able to study them in detail for the first time has actually shown that might not be the case.

One of the protostar images from ALMA researchers are using to study the whirlwind phenomenon. Blue indicates gas moving toward us; red, gas moving away.

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“During the contraction of the gas cloud, the material begins to rotate faster and faster just like a figure skater doing a pirouette spins faster by pulling their arms close to their body. In order slow down the rotation, the energy must be carried away,” said Per Bjerkeli, a postdoc in Astrophysics and Planetary Science at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen and Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, in a news release. “This happens when the new star emits wind. The wind is formed in the disc around the protostar and thus rotates together with it. When this rotating wind moves away from the protostar, it thus takes part of the rotational energy with it and the dust and gas close to the star can continue to contract.”

The Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Chile

The researchers don’t yet know what happens to the material that gets blown away — whether it eventually falls back to its origins or gets carried away into space. While the recent analysis doesn’t get into this explicitly, this is an important area of study because it potentially impacts how life is formed on other planets. If the material is indeed expelled into space for good and ends up one day seeding microbial life elsewhere, it’s important to know that that life has its origins in faraway extant space. This is why when we search for signs of life in our own solar system, we take separate approaches to, say, Mars — where any life, should it exist, could have originated on Earth or vice versa — and to distant ocean worlds like Titan, where any life we find is sure to have developed through an entirely separate process than life on Earth.

Media via P. Bjerkeli et al., S. Otarola / European Southern Observatory, Per Bjerkeli / David Lamm / BOID

DST: 5 Ways Americans Could Benefit From Turning Clocks Forward ... Forever

Year-round DST means 343 lives could be saved per year.

By Steve Calandrillo, The Conversation
on
Filed Under Energy & Sleep

In my research on daylight saving time, I have found that Americans don’t like it when Congress messes with their clocks.

They are wrong. DST saves lives and energy and prevents crime. Not surprisingly, then, politicians in Washington, California, and Florida are now proposing to move to DST year-round.

Hangovers: Scientists Debunk a Common Belief About Mixing Drinks

Beer before liquor, never been sicker? 

By Stephen Bright
on

As we enjoy the summer, many strongly-held beliefs about avoiding hangovers are thrown around. One is that mixing different types of drinks is likely to make you feel unwell during your drinking session and contribute to a worse hangover.

There are sayings like “beer before liquor, never been sicker. Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear,” or “wine before beer will make you feel queer, but beer before wine and you’ll feel fine.”

Vaping and Cigarette Smoking Could Be Equally Likely to Cause Lung Disease

"Vaping may not be safer than cigarette smoking."

A growing body of evidence suggests the potential harm of vaping electronic cigarettes has been underestimated. While e-cigarette advertisements claim the devices can help people quit smoking cigarettes, research shows that they also targeted non-smoker teens, and scientists are discovering that e-cigarettes can cause serious harm on their own.

Adding to this evidence is a study released Thursday in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Scientists from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill found that, in a sample of 14 vapers, all those individuals had elevated levels of protease enzymes in their lungs. High levels of protease enzymes are known to cause lung condition called emphysema, which is commonly found among people who smoke cigarettes.

Climate crisis: 5 big recommendations to reduce air pollution, say experts

Experts around the world share their insights on the threat of a climate breakdown.

By Hannah Hoag and Jack Marley
on

The global strike on Friday, September 20, 2019, was the largest demonstration for climate action in history. The movement that started with Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg in August 2018 has now mobilized millions, while Extinction Rebellion and other protest groups have escalated their campaigns on streets around the world. From the efforts of activists in different countries, radical “Green New Deals” are emerging as a bold, political response to the climate crisis.