Heavens

Although helium is a rare element on Earth, it is ubiquitous in the Universe. It is, after hydrogen, the main component of stars and gaseous giant planets. Despite its abundance, helium was only detected recently in the atmosphere of a gaseous giant by an international team including astronomers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland. The team, this time led by Genevan researchers, has observed in detail and for the first time how this gas escapes from the overheated atmosphere of an exoplanet, literally inflated with helium. The results are published in Science.

"Super-Earths" and Neptune-sized planets could be forming around young stars in much greater numbers than scientists thought, new research by an international team of astronomers suggests.

Observing a sampling of young stars in a star-forming region in the constellation Taurus, researchers found many of them to be surrounded by structures that can best be explained as traces created by invisible, young planets in the making. The research, published in the Astrophysical Journal, helps scientists better understand how our own solar system came to be.

Strains of the bacterium Enterobacter, similar to newly found opportunistic infectious organisms seen in a few hospital settings, have been identified on the International Space Station (ISS). The strains found in space were not pathogenic to humans, but researchers believe they should be studied for potential health implications for future missions, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Microbiology.

Astronomers may have finally uncovered the long-sought progenitor to a specific type of exploding star by sifting through NASA Hubble Space Telescope archival data. The supernova, called a Type Ic, is thought to detonate after its massive star has shed or been stripped of its outer layers of hydrogen and helium.

Scientists have discovered something amazing.

In a cluster of some of the most massive and luminous stars in our galaxy, about 5,000 light years from Earth, astronomers detected particles being accelerated by a rapidly rotating neutron star as it passed by the massive star it orbits only once every 50 years.

The discovery is extremely rare, according to University of Delaware astrophysicist Jamie Holder and doctoral student Tyler Williamson, who were part of the international team that documented the occurrence.

For the first time astronomers have detected gravitational waves from a merged, hyper-massive neutron star. The scientists, Maurice van Putten of Sejong University in South Korea, and Massimo della Valle of the Osservatorio Astronomico de Capodimonte in Italy, publish their results in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society: Letters.

For the first time, a team of astronomers has observed several pairs of galaxies in the final stages of merging together into single, larger galaxies. Peering through thick walls of gas and dust surrounding the merging galaxies' messy cores, the research team captured pairs of supermassive black holes--each of which once occupied the center of one of the two original smaller galaxies--drawing closer together before they coalescence into one giant black hole.

Observations by ALMA and data from the MUSE spectrograph on ESO's VLT have revealed a colossal fountain of molecular gas powered by a black hole in the brightest galaxy of the Abell 2597 cluster -- the full galactic cycle of inflow and outflow powering this vast cosmic fountain has never before been observed in one system.

About 550 light-years away in the constellation of Cassiopeia lies IC 63, a stunning and slightly eerie nebula. Also known as the ghost of Cassiopeia, IC 63 is being shaped by radiation from a nearby unpredictably variable star, Gamma Cassiopeiae, which is slowly eroding away the ghostly cloud of dust and gas. This celestial ghost makes the perfect backdrop for the upcoming feast of All Hallow's Eve -- better known as Halloween.

New research, published today (Wednesday 24 October) in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, has found evidence for a large number of double supermassive black holes, likely precursors of gigantic black hole merging events. This confirms the current understanding of cosmological evolution - that galaxies and their associated black holes merge over time, forming bigger and bigger galaxies and black holes.