Colorful Earthquakes, Enormous Superclusters, And Other Amazing Images Of The Week

Let your eyes feast on the aesthetics of science.

Mysterious Mushroom

This deep-sea creature may have a familiar mushroom shape, but the organism is actually brand new to science. In fact, the researchers that discovered the animal, named Dendrogamma, are having a hard time figuring out exactly how to categorize it. While the creature has features similar to those in the phyla Ctenophara and Cnidaria, it doesn’t quite fit into either group. In a paper published in PLOS One, the researchers say it’s possible the new mushroom-shaped species requires a phylum all its own.

Rainbow Of Destruction

Don’t worry, you haven’t taken any psychedelic drugs. This composite radar image showcases the damage caused by an earthquake that struck California’s Napa Valley on August 24. Generated by Sentinel-1A, the European Space Agency’s radar imaging satellite, the image is an interferogram, blending two images that were taken on August 7 and August 31. According to the ESA, the two round shapes around Napa Valley reveal the ground’s deformation, which causes “changes in radar signals that appear as the rainbow-colored patterns.”

Beautiful Cracks

When Joël Marthelot and his French colleagues were studying thin films of silicate at ESPCI ParisTech, they noticed their materials had a few cracks – and they were quite pretty. If their silicate coating didn’t quite stick to the surface below it, cracks formed in intricate patterns, either as a spiral emanating from a central point or as connected rows of crescents. The phenomenon is caused by a combination of elastic energy within the film and the way the material peels away from the underlying surface.

A Sizeable Supercluster

Our celestial home just got a whole lot bigger — on the astronomical map, at least. This week, a team of astronomers re-charted the supercluster of galaxies that includes the Milky Way, finding it to be 100 times bigger in volume and mass than previously thought. In a new study, published in the journal Nature, the researchers chronicled the motions of the galaxies, in order to determine the “gravitational landscape” of the local Universe. The team named the enormous supercluster Laniakea – Hawaiian for “immeasurable heaven.”

A Flurry of Flares

In the last week of August, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory registered a mid-level flare on the surface of the sun. But the flares didn’t stop there. Within the next two days, more than six additional flares erupted from a sunspot called AR 2151, all of which were captured by the SDO. Solar flares aren’t capable of harming humans, but if powerful enough, they can disrupt some GPS communications in our atmosphere.

Bismuth Crystal

Jesus Diaz over at Gizmodo points out the astonishing beauty of this crystal of bismuth, photographed with stacked focus, which readers of the Bismuth page on Wikipedia have long admired. You can extract bismuth from Pepto-Bismol yourself.

The Heart of the Sun

While NASA was busy recording the sun’s exterior, researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, were studying the byproducts of the sun’s core. With the aid of a powerful instrument called the Borexino detector (pictured), researchers were able to detect subatomic particles known as neutrinos for the first time ever. These bizarre, tiny particles are formed by the fusion reaction of two protons in the sun’s core; they then travel to Earth at the speed of light, flying through the empty spaces between atoms. Experts have known about their existence for some time, but no one had ever been able to “see” these low-energy neutrinos in real time before.

Sea Monster

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission posted this image on Facebook, of an 18-inch-long creature pulled out of the water by Steve Bargeron in Fort Pierce, Florida. “Scientists think it may be some type of mantis shrimp (which are actually not related to shrimp, but are a type of crustacean called a stomatopod), and continue to review the photos to identify the exact species.”

Spit Take

Who ever said spitting was a bad habit must not have known about archerfish, Toxotes jaculatrix. Expert shots, these fish spit jets of water up into the air, catching flying insects off guard and causing them to fall down for a tasty treat. They can even alter the force of their spit to bring down bigger creatures – including small lizards. Researchers at University of Bayreuth in Germany taught nine of these archerfish to spit at their prey in front of a high speed camera.

Barred Owl

The Barred Owl is just one of the many creatures featured in Nocturne: Creatures of the Night. These raptors are quite vocal, communicating through hoots, gurgle, cackles, and caws. But perhaps what makes it distinct is its hooting call, which is thought to sound like the phrase, “Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?” Check out a variety of other nocturnal creatures in our gallery Flying Foxes, Rococo Toads, And Other Creatures Of Darkness.