<p>An unexpected spiral structure has been spotted in the material around the old star R Sculptoris—seen above in a picture released October 10 by the European Space Observatory's <a href="http://www.eso.org/sci/facilities/alma.html">Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA)</a>. </p><p> The mysterious structure "has never been seen before and is probably caused by a hidden companion star orbiting the star," according to the observatory. </p><p> In the above picture—the first 3-D depiction of such a spiral—the shell around the star shows up as the outer circular ring. The image also depicts a very clear spiral structure in the inner material. </p><p> (See "<a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/09/photogalleries/100909-spiral-galaxies-eat-dwarf-space-science-pictures/">Pictures: New Proof Spiral Galaxies Eat, Digest Dwarfs.</a>")</p>

Spiral Surprise

An unexpected spiral structure has been spotted in the material around the old star R Sculptoris—seen above in a picture released October 10 by the European Space Observatory's Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA).

The mysterious structure "has never been seen before and is probably caused by a hidden companion star orbiting the star," according to the observatory.

In the above picture—the first 3-D depiction of such a spiral—the shell around the star shows up as the outer circular ring. The image also depicts a very clear spiral structure in the inner material.

(See "Pictures: New Proof Spiral Galaxies Eat, Digest Dwarfs.")

Photograph courtesy ALMA/ESO/NAOJ/NRAO

Space Pictures This Week: Mars Scoop, Odd Spiral, More

The Mars rover makes a scoop, SpaceX lifts off, and astronomers spot a strange spiral in this week's best space pictures.

Read This Next

The science behind seasonal depression
These 3,000-year-old relics were torched and buried—but why?
How the Holocaust happened in plain sight

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet