It seems like our compulsive universe can be downright capricious when it comes to making oddball-looking things in the cosmos. The latest surprise to Hubble astronomers is a 100,000-light-year-long structure that looks like a string of pearls twisted into a corkscrew shape. This Slinky-like structure forms a bridge between two giant elliptical galaxies that are colliding. The "pearls" on the Slinky are superclusters of blazing, blue-white, newly born stars. The whole assembly, which looks like a tug-of-war, must result from the gravitational tidal forces present in the collision.
Astrophysics: Survival of the largest
Nature 511, 7509 (2014). doi:10.1038/nature13640
Authors: Haley Gomez
Whether supernovae create most of the dust in the cosmos is a controversial question. Observations of a distant supernova have revealed signs of freshly formed dust, but the properties of the dust are unexpected. See Letter p.326
Rapid formation of large dust grains in the luminous supernova 2010jl
Nature 511, 7509 (2014). doi:10.1038/nature13558
Authors: Christa Gall, Jens Hjorth, Darach Watson, Eli Dwek, Justyn R. Maund, Ori Fox, Giorgos Leloudas, Daniele Malesani & Avril C. Day-Jones
The origin of dust in galaxies is still a mystery. The majority of the refractory elements are produced in supernova explosions, but it is unclear how and where dust grains condense and grow, and how they avoid destruction in the harsh environments of star-forming galaxies. The recent detection of 0.1 to 0.5 solar masses of dust in nearby supernova remnants suggests in situ dust formation, while other observations reveal very little dust in supernovae in the first few years after explosion. Observations of the spectral evolution of the bright SN 2010jl have been interpreted as pre-existing dust, dust formation or no dust at all. Here we report the rapid (40 to 240 days) formation of dust in its dense circumstellar medium. The wavelength-dependent extinction of this dust reveals the presence of very large (exceeding one micrometre) grains, which resist destruction. At later times (500 to 900 days), the near-infrared thermal emission shows an accelerated growth in dust mass, marking the transition of the dust source from the circumstellar medium to the ejecta. This provides the link between the early and late dust mass evolution in supernovae with dense circumstellar media.
Planetary Science: Hit-and-run origin for Mercury
Nature 511, 7508 (2014). doi:10.1038/511129c
Mercury may have formed as the result of one or more 'hit-and-run' collisions between the many protoplanets in the early Solar System.Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, is unusual because its large metallic core lacks a massive rocky mantle like the ones that