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SciShow Space shares the latest news from around the universe, including the first observation of a star-within-a-star, and the debut image from the newest telescope to be enlisted in the hunt for alien worlds.
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Last week astronomers made history when they announced the discovery of the first real specimen of a celestial object that until NOW, had only been theoretical. And the next generation of exoplanet finding technology is here: an incredibly intelligent telescope that will actually let us look directly at alien worlds.

I'm Caitlin Hofmeister and welcome to SciShow Space News.

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As we know there are some things in science that are fascinating and weird, but we know they are real like platypuses and black holes. Then there are things that we suspect must be real based on other data but they remain theoretical, like people who actually enjoy the smell of durian or think that professional wrestling is a sport. Well, last week an international team of astronomers announced that they had broken the hypothetical-to-real barrier by making the first ever observation of a Thorne-Zytkow Object, a star with a core made out of another star. (0:48) It's a turducken!

Such an object was first theorized to exist in 1975 when physicist Kip Thorne and astronomer Anna Zytkow suggested that a colossal fading red supergiant could have a tiny but unbelievable dense neutron star as its core.

In theory, they figured, this could happen when two nearby stars aged to meet different fates: one star growing into a huge but pretty weak supergiant while the other close by collapsed into a supernova. That supernova would then leave behind a neutron star as a remnant, a superdense object that could be a tiny as 10 kilometers across. And as the nearby supergiant grew it would then just swallow it up into its core.

Now as we talked about before, stars are basically just element factories. They take light simple elements like hydrogen and helium and fuse them into heavier elements, like gasses and sometimes eventually metals.

So, according to the theory a star with a star inside it would produce an odd batch of elements. First fusing certain combinations in the neutron core and then making heavier ones in the red supergiant. Thorne and Zytkow predicted that this particular combination would specifically produce excessive amounts of the elements rubidium, lithium, and molybdenum and that's exactly what the team behind last weeks discovery found while they were surveying red supergiants in the Small Magellanic Cloud.

Since stars make so much of the material in the universe, the confirmation that Throne-Zytkow Objects exist means we have a new way of understanding how elements can be made. And by extension how we're made.

And in another auspicious first this week, astronomers with the European Southern Observatory have just taken ther first image with the newest tool in our ongoing hunt for alien worlds, SPHERE, an instrument that when attached to the Very Large Telescope in Chile will show us direct images of exoplanets. This debut images known as the telescopes' first light was a star ringed by dust known as HR 4796A.

Among the many challenges of finding exoplanets, of course, is that planets don't create light of their own and they often get lost in the bright light of their parent stars. So until recently we were only able to observe them indirectly by observing the minuscule gravitational effects they have on the stars that they orbit.

The Very Large Telescope actually gave us our first ever image of an exoplanet in 2004 using a coronagraph, an instrument that blocks a stars light to make planets more easily visible.

SPHERE has a state of the art coronagraph too plus it has a fancy new adaptive optics system, which will intelligently correct for the effects of the earths atmosphere on the images it takes, making them sharper and clearer.

It also has what they call a differential imaging system, which allows it to distinguish between light that comes directly from stars and light that's been reflected off of planets. Being able to observe the reflected light and not the direct light will allow us to observe planets without them being washed out by their nearby stars.

With these techniques combined, astronomers say the Very Large Telescope will be able to capture direct images of planets about the size of Jupiter. And as they find them, we'll be sure to share them with you.

Thanks for joining me for this update of the weeks' space news. If you want to keep exploring the universe with us, check out and don't forget to go to and subscribe.