Scientists have identified a new kind of star that up until this point had only been considered hypothetically: an ancient sun that has lived so long, its outermost layer is now composed almost entirely of pure oxygen.
When relatively small stars – those with less than 10 times the mass of our Sun – get close to the end of their lifespan, they shed their outer layers and become what are called white dwarfs. Under high gravity, the heaviest elements descend into the star’s dense core, while lighter elements such as hydrogen and helium rise to the surface.
At least, that’s what usually happens. This star, dubbed SDSS J124043.01+671034.68, bucks the trend, with astronomers discovering its outer atmosphere is essentially greater than 99.99 percent oxygen. Only traces of other elements have been detected, including neon, magnesium, and silicon, but as for the hydrogen and helium you’d expect to find dominating the surface, there’s no sign.
It’s a puzzle for the team that found it, led by Souza Oliveira Kepler from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil. “What happened to all these light elements?” he told William Herkewitz at Popular Mechanics. “How did they all get stripped away?”
The answer isn’t entirely clear, but astronomers have long speculated that elements being stripped from a star’s surface over time could be a possibility. If that’s what’s happened here, SDSS J124043.01+671034.68 (or ‘Dox’ as the researchers have nicknamed it) is the first evidence of the phenomenon taking place.
In any case, this oxygen-dominated star is a true one-of-a-kind in terms of the solar bodies we know about, being the only star among some 32,000 white dwarfs with such a pristine oxygen atmosphere.
“This white dwarf was incredibly unexpected,” Kepler says. “And because we had no idea anything like it could even exist, that made it all the more difficult to find.”
But how did the other elements get stripped away? Nobody knows for sure, but Kepler and his colleagues have a couple of ideas. It’s possible that Dox could be part of a binary star system, and that interactions with another star in the system somehow peeled away its other atmospheric elements, exposing an oxygen envelope underneath.
Alternatively, something within the star, such as a massive pulse of burning carbon at Dox’s core, might have flared outwards, eliminating lighter elements on the surface.
We won’t understand until we learn more about these kinds of rare stars, but the great thing about the discovery of Dox is it’s already reshaping what we know about stellar evolution – particularly with a view to how binary systems could impact the development of the stars moving within them.
“I think the main problem is that we have dedicated the last 50 years to [calculating] the evolution of stars that are not interacting with each other,” said Kepler, “when at least 30 percent of stars interact with a binary companion.”
The findings are reported in Science.
Animal brought back to life after spending 30 years frozen
The waterbears were retrieved from frozen moss sample collected in Antarctica in 1983
Researchers have successfully revived microscopic creatures that had been kept frozen for 30 years.
Tardigrades, also known as waterbears or moss piglets, are tiny water-dwelling organisms. They’re segmented, with eight legs, and measure 1mm in length.
Scientists at at Japan’s National Institute of Polar Research retrieved the creatures from a frozen moss sample collected in Antarctica in 1983. The sample had been stored at −20 °C for just over three decades.
Two waterbears were resuscitated. One of them died after 20 days, but the other went on to successfully reproduce with a third specimen hatched from a frozen egg.
It laid 19 eggs, of which 14 hatched successfully.
Found throughout the world, tardigrades can survive extreme pressure, such as deep underwater, and can even live in the vacuum of space for several days.
When they’re frozen, the creatures enter a state called cryptobiosis, in which their metabolic processes shut down, and they show no visible signs of life.
“The present study extends the known length of long-term survival in tardigrade species considerably,” said researchers.
The previous survival record for adult tardigrades under frozen conditions was eight years, and a much earlier study had suggested that the upper limit for survival under normal atmospheric oxygen conditions was about 10 years.
“We want to unravel the mechanism for long-term survival by looking into damage to tardigrades’ DNA and their ability to repair it,” said research lead Megumu Tsujimoto.
National Institute of Polar Research now plans to work on examining damage to the water bear’s genes and its recovery functions to achieve a better understanding of its long-term survival mechanism.
Hardy though the tardigrades in this study undoubtedly were, they didn’t beat the record for survival in a frozen state: that’s currently held by a nematode worm that managed nearly 39 years.
The Zeer Pot
Like death, taxes, and never-ending Fast and the Furious sequels, exorbitant cell phone bills are unfortunately the only sure things in life. However, unless you’re a fine print fanatic, you probably aren’t taking full advantage of all the extra perks packed into the contract you signed with your wireless carrier. We scoped out the country’s four largest to see what you might be missing out on.
NASA Makes Clouds that Rain:
Roadtrippers is a must-have for anyone planning a road trip in the United States. You enter where you want to go, make selections depending on what you want to see (natural wonders! weird stuff!), and the app will create a customized map for you.
You’ll get your lowest airfares ever thanks to Hopper’s finely tuned price-prediction feature. First it figures out the best time for you fly, then it figures out the best time for you to buy tickets for that flight.
If your brain is frazzled at the mere idea of organizing a trip, let Travel Math do all the calculations for you: it’ll measure distances, travel times, budgets—whatever you need to know.
Cruise crazy? This is the #1 app when it comes to vacations taken on a ship. You can take a look at deck plans, read reviews of the different ports you’ll be stopping at, chat with other people who will be on your ship, and more.
Tripit merges your flight, restaurant, hotel, and car rental confirmation emails into one “master itinerary” to keep you organized and where you need to be for your entire trip.
Your daughter is throwing up everywhere and suddenly going on vacation is no longer an option: What do you do about your hotel room? Get rid of it using Roomer. You list your room and wait to hear from someone who wants to take over your reservation — no more losing money on cancellation fees!
Jet Lag Rooster will tell you how to shift your sleeping schedule in the days before a trip so you won’t be exhausted once you reach your destination.
The last thing you want to do when you get back from a trip is wander around the airport parking garage for 30 minutes, exasperatedly searching for your vehicle: Dude Where’s My Car keeps track of *exactly* where you parked and will guide you back to that spot. Plus, it also helps you find parking.
Did you know that you can use a ton of airport lounges even if you aren’t a first class passenger? Sometimes it’s worth paying a fee if it means getting to wait for your flight in a comfortable spot—Loungebuddy will let you know what your options are at the airport you’re flying out of.
Can you bring _____ through airport security? Open up My TSA and you’ll know in an instant. You can also use the app to look up how long the security wait times are at your airport so you’ll be sure to arrive early enough to make your flight.
This app allows your loved ones to “join” you on a trip from the comfort of their homes: they “follow a breadcrumb trail of your tour by visiting the link you sent them,” while you document the most exciting spots you visit as you go—it’s the easiest way to keep people in the loop.
Put together your dream trip itinerary using the guides at Unlike, an app that “connects tastemakers and trendsetters around the globe with unique, essential and inspiring places.”
Find out what’s happening in the city or town you’re visiting using the collection of local newspapers available on the City Papers App: you’ll be able to discover concerts, craft sales, and other events that may not even be listed online.
When you’re in a new place (for work or on vacation), open up this app and it will give you a list of popular nearby bars *plus* what sorts of beer are on tap there. You want to to find someplace that serves a state-specific microbrew? This is how to hunt a glass of that down.
19.TV Food Maps
Depending on what part of the country (or world) you’re in, it can be difficult to find vegan or vegetarian friendly restaurants: When you want some help with your search, browse through the listings on Happy Cow—you’ll find dining establishments with meat-free options all over the world.
It’s a horrible moment when you realize that you need a file stored on your home computer when you’re 700 (or even just 30) miles away from it: LogMeIn allows you to access (and control) your home computer from anywhere.
Don’t enter the gates of the Magic Kingdom at Disney World without downloading this useful app. You can access real-time wait times, so keep checking to see how long the wait is at Splash Mountain and *SPRINT* over there when it says it’s only 15 minutes. You can also make dining reservations, look up parade showtimes, and more.
If you’re going to Disneyland, download this app instead.
If you want a simple way to figure out how much a Euro equals in USD, use Currency Converter (it will do calculations for over 160 currencies from all over the world).
Don’t piss off the local waiters and bellhops—check out Tip Fast to see what the typical tipping habits are in over 240 countries and regions.
26. Wi-Fi Finder
Use Wi-Fi Finder to find locations where you can use Wi-Fi for free. It works worldwide, so be sure to download it before your next trip to avoid being charged pricey roaming fees.
If you’re going on a trip, you want to take some awesome pictures to make everyone who follows you on Instagram jealous—use the map function on Panoramio to easily find picturesque places to snap a few ‘grams and let the likes roll in.