Artist's illustration of a black hole inside the dwarf galaxy M60-UCD1. NASA, ESA, STScI-PRC14-41a

Astounding Auroras

Last week, two solar flares erupted from a giant spot on the sun, sending large outbursts of magnetic fields — called coronal mass ejections — to Earth. While the CMEs had the potential to cause severe geomagnetic storms, they also made for one heck of a show. The magnetic fields, which reached Earth this past weekend, brought auroras as far south as the United States, and many busted out their cameras to capture the spectacular view. This picture is from Tombstone Territorial Park in the Yukon.

Bent Beak

Sixteen years ago, wildlife geneticist Sandra Talbot looked out at her bird feeder, noticing a black-capped chickadee with a “beak curved like a piece of macaroni.” This observation alerted scientists that something was wrong in the bird world, and since then, deformed beaks have been seen in more than 2,500 Alaskan chickadees (6.5 percent of all captured adults). Now, scientists are focusing on the emergence of a mysterious new virus, which may be to blame for the deformities.

Green With Envy

With all the focus on Lake Erie’s algal bloom, it seems as though the Arabian Sea couldn’t let the great lake have all the fun. A phytoplankton named Noctiluca scintillans has taken over a dead zone off the coast of India, creating a bloom the size of Texas. Don’t be fooled by its delightful green color. Experts say the Noctiluca is replacing diatom at the base of the food chain; problem is, no creatures really want to eat it — except sea salps and jellyfish.

One Whopping Welder

On Friday, NASA unveiled a rather remarkable device: the Vertical Assembly Center or the VAC. Housed at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, the VAC is the largest spacecraft welding tool in the world, standing at 170-feet tall and 78-feet wide. NASA plans to use the welder to build their Space Launch System, a giant rocket the space agency hopes to use to explore an asteroid and then Mars.

Small Galaxy, Big Hole

Artist’s illustration of a black hole inside the dwarf galaxy M60-UCD1.

539-Ton Engine

TOTE Shipholdings has been hard at work on two new Marlin Class cargo ships. Last month one of the vessel’s got its main engine installed — and it’s a sight to behold. Weighing in at 539 tons, it’s the world’s first dual-fuel slow speed engine, running on liquefied natural gas instead of diesel. Phil Morrell, vice president of commercial marine operations for TOTE, says the engine will not only decrease the company’s greenhouse gas emissions, but also improve efficiency, as the ships “will require less energy to travel the same distance and help preserve the environment.”

She’s Like A Rainbow

While full of festive colors, this chart actually depicts violent collisions of our neighboring galaxies, showing the behavior of carbon monoxide gas as the two celestial bodies merge. The colors reveal which direction the gas is moving, with blue illustrating carbon monoxide moving toward us and red illustrating gas that is moving away. In these pictures, the gas is actually rotating around the center of the resulting galaxy, meaning disc galaxies are being formed. And since our own Milky Way is a disc galaxy, it could mean that our own home was the result of two galaxies running into each other.

Eye Opening Experience

It’s time to see the light! Sporting a bit more fluff than when they were first born, the three giant panda triplets at China’s Chimelong Zoo have opened their eyes for the first time. A video of the trio shows the cubs with their eyes barely open, squealing and moving about their playpen. Born on July 29, the babies are the only known surviving panda triplets to have been born in captivity.

The Last Of Us

Meet Lonesome George, the last giant tortoise from the Galapagos island of Pinta. Don’t let his extended neck and alert stare fool you. George is no longer among the living, as he died unexpectedly in 2012, bringing an end to his species. After his death, George’s body was sent to New York, where taxidermists restructured him and brought him to “life” once again (You can learn more about that process here). Lonesome George goes on display this week at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Little Star

Capping things off with one last shot of cuteness, Belfast Zoo welcomed a baby Francois’ Langur named Xiao Xing, which means “little star” in Chinese. Born on August 23, Xiao Xing was rejected by his mother at birth, so zoo curator Andrew Hope cared for the infant himself. “There are occasions where first time mothers just do not have the skill set or the instinct to care for their young,” Hope explains. “This is fairly common in many species.” Since the intervention, Xiao Xing has progressed well and is in good health. Francois’ Langurs are at high risk of extinction due to habitat loss, warfare, logging, and hunting. It is believed that less than 500 are left in Vietnam and only 1,400 remain in China.