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Star Takes Less Than Three Hours to Orbit the Black Hole That’s Eating It [Video]

Astronomers at the European Space Agency have found a binary star-and-black-hole that orbit one another once every 2.4 hours, making them the most swiftly orbiting binary objects ever recorded. Of course, the star -- a tiny red dwarf just 20% as massive as our own Sun-- is being actively consumed by the black hole, so this is less like traditional orbiting, like we do with the Sun, and more like watching a cat play with a wounded mouse on a cosmic scale. Keep reading to get a look at the ESA's animated rendering of the new fastest known orbit in action.

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Astronomers Spot First Ever Spiral Arm Star, Hints of Exoplanets

The constellation Lupus has revealed a surprise to astronomers with a star that seems to have two spiral arms reaching out from either end. While these kind of structures have been observed in galaxies, specifically pinwheel galaxies, arms have never been seen on an individual star before. The star, called SAO 206462, is a relatively young star surrounded by a disk of gas and dust. Scientists hoped that close observation would reveal an exoplanet forming from the swirling mass, and so peered at the 400-light-year distant star with Japan's Subaru Telescope. Instead of planets, two graceful arms similar to those found in galaxies emerged. However, that doesn't mean that planets aren't hanging around in the disk -- which is apparently twice as wide as the orbit of Pluto. In fact, theoretical models suggest that the spiral arms could be formed from not one planet, but two. Obviously, some further investigation of this intriguing and beautiful star will be warranted.

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Herschel Telescope Measures Water Molecule Blast From Baby Star

A low-mass protostar in the early stages of its development that shoots large gas jets of hydrogen and oxygen (the components of water) out of its poles in pulsating surges has been discovered. Located approximately 750 light years from earth, the baby star shoots these jets at speeds equivalent to 80x the muzzle velocity of an Ak-47 assault rifle.

Each blast creates shockwaves around the star and may even sprinkle the hydrogen and oxygen compounds across its universe. The protostar that was recently discovered is located in the Perseus constellation in an object labelled L1448-MM. It can be seen from earth to the right of the Pleiades, also know as the Seven Sisters star cluster, which is located in the constellation Taurus.

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Did Scientists Just See a Star Eaten by a Black Hole?

On March 28, NASA's Swift gamma ray burst observatory saw a tremendous flash of light some four billion light years away. While it was initially chalked up to an exploding star, new analysis seems to indicate that a star may have been pulled into a black hole. If true, this would be only the second time this has been observed. Because of the distance, we can never be certain about what happened to the star. However, there's quite a bit of evidence that the star met its end in the belly of a black hole. Normally, gamma ray bursts occur when a large star collapses and becomes a black hole. But this time, the intensity of the light grew and faded over time, which would fit scientists understanding of how black holes consume matter.

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Dying Star Leaves Amazing Three-Trillion Kilometer Spiral in Its Wake

A red giant named AFGL 3068 is dying, but it's leaving a neat space corpse in the form of a three trillion kilometer long spiral pattern of the red giant's outer layers.

When a sun dies, it becomes a red giant. A red giant usually blows its outer layers into space, which get caught by solar winds and encapsulate the star, turning its escaping outer layers into something of a cocoon. The cocoon normally looks like a cloudy orb surrounding the red giant, except in AFGL 3068's case, because its system is made up of two stars orbiting their common center of mass, otherwise known as a binary star. Due to the different orbital patterns a binary star takes, the outer layers that get caught in the solar winds don't wrap the red giant in a cocoon, but get molded by the partner star into the spiral pattern seen in the above picture.

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