IRAS 16547-4247, a binary star system. Photo: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), Tanaka et al.

A pair of newborn stars are enveloped in water vapor and sodium chloride — otherwise known as table salt — according to new data from the ALMA telescope in Chile.

Why it matters: Scientists are always looking to piece together new details of how star systems form, and the detection of salt in this binary star system could help researchers figure out how baby stars grow.

The state of play: The binary system, called IRAS 16547-4247, is about 9,500 light-years from Earth, and the stars' combined mass is about 25 times the Sun's.

  • This marks the second time scientists have seen table salt in the soup around huge young stars.
  • "The first example was around Orion KL Source I, but that is such a peculiar source that we were not sure whether salt is suitable to see gas disks around massive stars. Our results confirmed that salt is actually a good marker," Kei Tanaka, who led the team that found the table salt signal, said in a statement.

The big picture: The pair of stars, which appear to orbit in two different directions, may have actually formed separately and then met up later in life.

  • Most huge stars that scientists have seen in the universe have companions, so learning more about the specifics of how these types of systems form could inform their understanding of the origins of these stars.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to study these systems with water vapor and table salt to possibly learn more about how our solar system — which is also rich in water vapor and sodium chloride — formed in its early days.

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
21 mins ago - World

U.S.-brokered ceasefire collapses in Nagorno-Karabakh

Volunteer fighters in Stepanakert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. Photo: Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S.-brokered ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh crumbled within hours on Monday, leaving the month-old war rumbling on.

Why it matters: Nearly 5,000 people have been killed, according to Vladimir Putin’s rough estimate, including more than 100 civilians. Between 70,000 and 100,000 more are believed to have fled the fighting.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: The swing states where the pandemic is raging — Pence no longer expected to attend Barrett confirmation vote after COVID exposure.
  2. Health: 13 states set single-day case records last week — U.S. reports over 80,000 new cases for second consecutive day.
  3. Business: Where stimulus is needed most.
  4. Education: The dangerous instability of school re-openings.
  5. World: Restrictions grow across Europe.
  6. Media: Fox News president and several hosts advised to quarantine.
Ben Geman, author of Generate
2 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Japan's big new climate goal

Climate protest in Tokyo in November 2019. Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

Japan's new prime minister said on Monday the nation will seek to become carbon neutral by 2050, a move that will require huge changes in its fossil fuel-heavy energy mix in order to succeed.

Why it matters: Japan is the world's fifth-largest source of carbon emissions. The new goal announced by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is stronger than the country's previous target of becoming carbon neutral as early as possible in the latter half of the century.