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    • By European Space Agency
      Image: A vertical beam of sunlight appears to shoot up into the sky outside Concordia research station in Antarctica in this image taken by ESA-sponsored medical doctor Hannes Hagson.
      Known as a sun pillar, this optical phenomenon occurs when sunlight is reflected from tiny ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere. Though it appears to reach from the sun itself, the pillar is not physically located above or below the sun. But it’s not just the sun that creates this optical illusion. Moonlight, and even streetlights, can create the same effect in icy conditions, in which case it is known more generally as a light pillar.
      Light pillars belong to the family of optical phenomena known as halos. The Antarctic sky during spring and summer is ripe for both, especially at higher altitudes. Concordia station is located on the Antarctic plateau known as Dome C, 3233 m above sea level.
      Hannes is spending a year at the remote base to facilitate biomedical experiments on both his 11 crew mates and himself, all in the name of science and space exploration.
      Antarctica has all the wonder and appeal of space; it is harsh, vast and mysterious. But it also has something extra going for it: easier access.
      Over the course of a year, Hannes has been sampling and recording the effects of lack of sunlight (during four-month winter) and less oxygen (due to the altitude) on himself and his crew for researchers developing countermeasures to altered motor skills, memory, sleep patterns and moods.
      As the Antarctic summer approaches, Hannes and his winter-over crew are nearly at the end of their residency, and will soon prep the base for the arrival of the summer research campaign.
      Follow life at the base on the Chronicles from Concordia blog.
      View the full article
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      Scientist Judy Schmidt: Nope, I don't know what this is. Some kind of spiral nebula around WR140. I'm sure we'll find out more later. 

      The Universe, truly, is full of wonders, and the James Webb Space Telescope has just given us our best views of one of them yet. 
      The object in question is a star around 5,600 light-years away, and Webb's infrared eye has picked out an extraordinary detail: it's surrounded by what appear to be concentric rings of light radiating outward. 
      While Webb's characteristic diffraction spikes are not 'real', those concentric rings are – and there's a wonderful and fascinating explanation for them. 
      The star is actually a binary pair of rare stars in the constellation of Cygnus, and their interactions produce precise periodic eruptions of dust that are expanding out in shells into the space around the pair over time. 
      These shells of dust are glowing in infrared, which has allowed an instrument as sensitive as Webb's MIRI to resolve them in exquisite detail. 
      The star is what is known as a colliding wind binary, consisting of an extremely rare Wolf-Rayet star, called WR 140, and a hot, massive O-type star companion – another rare object. 
      Wolf-Rayet stars are very hot, very luminous, and very old; at the end of their main-sequence lifespan. They are significantly depleted in hydrogen, rich in nitrogen or carbon, and losing mass at a very high rate. 
      O-type stars are among the most massive stars known, also very hot and bright; because they are so massive, their lifespans are incredibly brief.  View the full article
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