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Artist's illustration of the strange star system (left), actual photo (R). Image: ESO/L. Calçada, Exeter/Kraus et al.

Three stars are ripping apart a potentially planet-forming disc of gas and dust 1,300 light-years from Earth.

Why it matters: The star system could help scientists learn more about how some of the strangest systems of planets and stars form in the galaxy.

Details: Researchers observed the star system — named GW Orionis — for about 11 years. They found the three stars have warped the disc, which has tilted rings, according to a new study in the journal Science this week.

  • Scientists have found evidence of warped discs before, but this is the first time they've directly linked the shape and structure of a disc of this kind to stars inside them.

The big picture: Understanding the structure of the disc could one day help scientists spot planets circling other stars that may have formed from warped discs as well.

  • And GW Orionis may be capable of hosting planets. The inner dust ring of the stars contains about 30 times the mass of the Earth and may be capable of forming planets one day.
  • "Any planets formed within the misaligned ring will orbit the star on highly oblique orbits and we predict that many planets on oblique, wide-separation orbits will be discovered in future planet imaging campaigns," study co-author Alexander Kreplin said in a statement.

Context: Unlike this star system, the planets of our solar system formed from a flat plane of dust and debris circling the Sun.

  • Planetary systems that arise from interactions like those happening in GW Orionis could even look like Tatooine planets — which orbit two stars — or other strange worlds that, until now, have had origins that defy explanations.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Dec 8, 2020 - Science

The golden age of space-sample returns

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Multiple space missions by different countries are bringing rock samples back to Earth from far-off worlds — a trend that could redefine our understanding of the evolution of the solar system.

Driving the news: China’s Chang’e-5 spacecraft is bound for Earth and loaded down with Moon rocks expected to be far younger than those brought back during the Apollo missions. Those samples are expected to arrive in mid-December.

50 mins ago - World

Netanyahu campaigns against Biden's plan to save Iran deal

Netanyahu campaigns at a gym last month. Photo: Pool/AFP via Getty

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu indirectly criticized the Biden administration for its intention to return to the Iran nuclear deal and told his supporters he was prepared to "stand against the entire world" to stop it.

Why it matters: This is a major change of tune for Netanyahu, who had been careful in his statements on the Iran deal and avoided publicly criticizing President Biden. The statement was part of Netanyahu's attempt to rally his base ahead of Israel's election on March 23.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Tech: "Fludemic" model accurately maps COVID hotspotsVirtual doctor's visits and digital health tools take off.
  2. Politics: Schumer says Senate will stay through weekend to vote on COVID relief — Republican governor of West Virginia says there's no plan to lift mask mandate.
  3. World: Canada vaccine panel recommends 4 months between doses.
  4. Business: Firms develop new ways to inoculate the public.
  5. Local: Ultra-rich Florida community got vaccinations in January.