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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.

Collins helps contractor before pro-Susan PAC gets donation

Sen. Susan Collins during her reelection campaign. Photo: Scott Eisen/Getty Images

A PAC backing Sen. Susan Collins in her high-stakes reelection campaign received $150,000 from an entity linked to the wife of a defense contractor whose firm Collins helped land a federal contract, new public records show.

Why it matters: The executive, Martin Kao of Honolulu, leaned heavily on his political connections to boost his business, federal prosecutors say in an ongoing criminal case against him. The donation linked to Kao was veiled until last week.

How cutting GOP corporate cash could backfire

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Companies pulling back on political donations, particularly to members of Congress who voted against certifying President Biden's election win, could inadvertently push Republicans to embrace their party's rightward fringe.

Why it matters: Scores of corporate PACs have paused, scaled back or entirely abandoned their political giving programs. While designed to distance those companies from events that coincided with this month's deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol, research suggests the moves could actually empower the far-right.