Heavens

Though stars and galaxies fill our night sky, most of the matter in the universe resides in the dark voids in between. Spread out over unfathomable distances, this cold, diffuse gas between galaxies -- called the intergalactic medium, or IGM for short -- hardly emits any light, making it difficult to study.

September 2017 saw a spate of solar activity, with the Sun emitting 27 M-class and four X-class flares and releasing several powerful coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, between Sept. 6-10. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation, while coronal mass ejections are massive clouds of solar material and magnetic fields that erupt from the Sun at incredible speeds.

Researchers based millions of kilometres from Mars have unveiled new evidence for how contemporary features are formed on the Red Planet. Their innovative lab-based experiments on carbon dioxide (CO2) sublimation - the process by which a substance changes from a solid to a gas without an intermediate liquid phase - suggest the same process is responsible for altering the appearance of sand dunes on Mars.

Captured using the exceptional sky-surveying abilities of the VLT Survey Telescope (VST) at ESO's Paranal Observatory in Chile, this deep view reveals the secrets of the luminous members of the Fornax Cluster, one of the richest and closest galaxy clusters to the Milky Way. This 2.3-gigapixel image is one of the largest images ever released by ESO.

A Canadian-led international team of astronomers recently discovered that spots on the surface of a supergiant star are driving huge spiral structures in its stellar wind. Their results are published in a recent edition of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Massive stars are responsible for producing the heavy elements that make up all life on Earth. At the end of their lives they scatter the material into interstellar space in catastrophic explosions called supernovae - without these dramatic events, our solar system would never have formed.

For the first time, researchers have simultaneously measured the gravitational waves and the light from two merging neutron stars. 'Multi-messenger astronomy', combining the observation of gravitational waves and electromagnetic radiation, begins with this event, registered on 17 August 2017 at 14:41:04 CEST. Together, the complementary methods will considerably increase our understanding of extreme astrophysical events.

The next time you come across a knotted jumble of rope or wire or yarn, ponder this: The natural tendency for things to tangle may help explain the three-dimensional nature of the universe and how it formed.

On October 16 a team of scientists, including members from the LIGO and Virgo collaborations and several astronomical groups, announced the detection of both gravitational and electromagnetic waves, originating from the merger of two neutron stars. These mergers have been speculated as the yet unknown production site of heavy elements including Gold, Platinum and Uranium in the Universe.

On August 17, 2017, scientists at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) detectors in Louisiana and Washington and at the Virgo detector in Italy detected the first "ripples in space," or gravitational waves, produced by the merger of two ancient remnants of stars known as neutron stars.

The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has observed for the first time the source of a gravitational wave, created by the merger of two neutron stars. This merger created a kilonova -- an object predicted by theory decades ago -- that ejects heavy elements such as gold and platinum into space. This event also provides the strongest evidence yet that short duration gamma-ray bursts are caused by mergers of neutron stars. This discovery is the first glimpse of multi-messenger astronomy, bringing together both gravitational waves and electromagnetic radiation.