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Artist's illustration of a pulsating Delta Scuti star. Gif: NASA Goddard

Astronomers have found the heartbeat powering a class of pulsating stars in deep space for the first time.

Why it matters: The stellar heartbeats were detected using data from NASA's TESS spacecraft, which is designed to hunt for alien planets circling distant stars. The new discovery shows TESS' versatility and the spacecraft's ability to shed light on more than just far-off worlds.

How it works: Astronomers are able to see pulsations in a star's brightness caused by sound waves bouncing around inside of the star, allowing them to learn more about the star's internal structures, densities and composition.

  • That kind of investigation is difficult with Delta Scuti stars because of their quick rotation, but preplanned observations from TESS allowed scientists to parse out these signals more clearly, tracking a large sample of them.

What they found: TESS data helped astronomers find the patterns of the pulsations being emitted by about 60 of these stars, according to a study published last week in the journal Nature.

  • By clocking the patterns of these pulsing stars, scientists will be able to piece together their ages and other characteristics of the objects.
  • Until now, it was hard to understand the patterns of the stellar heartbeats due to the quick rotation of the stars. They complete a full rotation once or twice per day a dozen times faster than the Sun, according to NASA.
  • "This really is a breakthrough. Now we have a regular series of pulsations for these stars that we can understand and compare with models," Simon Murphy, one of the authors of the new study said in a statement.

Go deeper: Hear the heartbeat of a Delta Scuti star

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Aug 18, 2020 - Science

Spacecraft exhaust could complicate lunar science

The Moon above Earth's atmosphere. Photo: NASA

Increased activity on the Moon could make it harder for scientists to study lunar ices that may hold clues to the origins of water in the solar system.

What's happening: With NASA's Artemis program and other space agencies aiming for the Moon, the lunar surface could become a very crowded place in the coming years. Scientists are now working to parse out any unintended consequences of that exploration.

Perfect storm brewing for extreme politicians

Data: Axios research; Table: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Redistricting and a flood of departing incumbents are paving the way for more extreme candidates in this year's midterm elections.

Driving the news: At least 19 House districts in 12 states are primed to attract such candidates — hard partisans running in strongly partisan districts — according to an Axios analysis of districts as measured by the Cook Political Report's Partisan Voter Index (PVI).

Updated 3 hours ago - Technology

3D printing's next act: big metal objects

Chief Scientist Andy Bayramian makes modifications to the laser system on Seurat's 3D metal printer. Photo courtesy of Seurat Technologies.

A new metal 3D printing technology could revolutionize the way large industrial products like planes and cars are made, reducing the cost and carbon footprint of mass manufacturing.

Why it matters: 3D printing — also called additive manufacturing — has been used since the 1980s to make small plastic parts and prototypes. Metal printing is newer, and the challenge has been figuring out how to make things like large car parts faster and cheaper than traditional methods.