Heavens

At any given moment, as many as 10 million wild snakes of solar material leap from the sun's surface. These are spicules, and despite their abundance, scientists didn't understand how these jets of plasma form nor did they influence the heating of the outer layers of the sun's atmosphere or the solar wind. Now, for the first time, in a study partly funded by NASA, scientists have modeled spicule formation.

The quest to discover how planets found in the far reaches of the universe are born has taken a new, crucial twist.

A new study by an international team of scientists, led by Stefan Kraus from the University of Exeter, has given a fascinating new insight into one of the most respected theories of how planets are formed.

Young stars start out with a massive disk of gas and dust that over time, astronomers think, either diffuses away or coalesces into planets and asteroids.

Scientists have long assumed that all the planets in our solar system look the same beneath the surface, but a study published in Geology on Oct. 4 tells a different story.

"The mantle of the earth is made mostly of a mineral called olivine, and the assumption is usually that all planets are like the Earth," said Jay Melosh, Distinguished Professor of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at Purdue University, who led the study. "But when we look at the spectral signature of rocks exposed deep below the moon's surface, we don't see olivine; we see orthopyroxene."

In November 1572 a supernova explosion was observed in the direction of the constellation of Cassiopeia, and its most famous observer was Tycho Brahe, one of the founders of modern observational astronomy. The explosion produced an expanding cloud of superhot gas, a supernova remnant which was rediscovered in 1952 by British radioastronomers, confirmed by visible photographs from Mount Palomar observatory, California, in the 1960's, and a spectacular image was taken in X-rays by the Chandra satellite observatory in 2002 (see accompanying image).

A postgraduate of the Faculty of Geology at Moscow State University working as a part of an international team has assessed the oxidative environment and its changes inside asteroids from the core to the surface. This gives the authors of the study a better understanding of how the planets were formed. The paper was published in Meteoritics and Planetary Science.

Black holes are the final stage in the evolution of the most massive stars. Some black holes form a pair, orbiting around each other and gradually getting closer while losing energy in the form of gravitational waves, until a point is reached where the process suddenly accelerates. They then end up coalescing into a single black hole. Merging black holes have already been observed three times by the LIGO detectors, in 2015 and early 2017 . This time, three instruments detected the event on 14 August 2017 at 10:30 UTC, enabling vastly improved localization in the sky.

For the first time, three detectors have tracked the gravitational waves emitted by a merger of two black holes -- a critical new capability that allows scientists to more closely locate a gravitational wave's birthplace in space. Gravitational waves are ripples in space and time created when two massive, compact objects such as black holes merge.

An international team of researchers has successfully used a super-computer simulation to recreate the formation of a massive black hole from supersonic gas streams left over from the Big Bang. Their study, published in this week's Science, shows this black hole could be the source of the birth and development of the largest and oldest super-massive black holes recorded in our Universe.

This oddly-shaped galactic spectacle is bursting with brand new stars. The pink fireworks in this image taken with the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope are regions of intense star formation, triggered by a cosmic-scale collision. The huge galaxy in this image, NGC 4490, has a smaller galaxy in its gravitational grip and is feeling the strain.

NASA's Aqua satellite and Global Precipitation Measurement mission, or GPM, satellites have been peering into what appears to be a somewhat lop-sided Hurricane Maria. The storm appears asymmetric because vertical wind shear is pushing clouds and showers to the eastern side of the storm.

On Sept. 27, NHC forecaster Daniel Brown noted, "Deep convection and banding has increased over the eastern and northeastern portion of the large circulation of Maria since yesterday."