Water, oxygen and now sugar molecules have been found floating around in space, in the right place and at the right moment to wind up on newly forming planets. Astronomers have found sugar molecules around a star for the first time, using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array.
In the pantheon of modern astronomical explorers, the Kepler Space Telescope ranks right near the top, uncovering more than 1,200 worlds outside our solar system while staring at just a small fraction of the sky. Kepler has unveiled searingly hot, tiny terrestrial worlds, planets potentially sharing an orbit, an especially inky light-absorbing planet, and 54 planets comfortably ensconced in the Goldilocks zones of their stars. In September, Kepler astronomers announced yet another bizarre discovery: A planet orbiting around a binary star system, just like a certain dun-colored world in a certain science fiction film sextet.
But most people likely didn't know this exciting find — doubtless one of Kepler's most famous discoveries to date — was initially someone else's trash. Laurance Doyle happily sifted through it, leading to one of the biggest scientific discoveries of the year.
Despite moving at 18 miles per second, it still takes the Earth a year to make it around the Sun. For HM Cancri, an orbit takes a little bit less time: around five minutes. At that speed, HM Cancri is the fastest binary star pair ever discovered, with each white dwarf circling the other at a speed of 310 miles per second.