In this column, staff writer Andrea Alfano rounds up the most important and fascinating space news of the past week in bite-sized summaries to keep you up to date on what's happening way up above us.


Explosions and destruction were the theme this week in space news. Stephen Hawking delivered his latest hypothesis about how black holes destroy information, while NASA released a montage of intentional vehicle crashes. Scientists also announced that fire fountains once raged on our moon, and the Hubble Space Telescope captured a gorgeous shot of the explosive death of a star farther out in space.

Fire fountains once spewed lava across our moon.

During the Apollo missions, astronauts came across something strange on our moon. Strewn across parts of its surface were tiny beads of glass indicative of fire fountain eruptions. These volcanic eruptions happen on Earth in places such as Hawaii, and require lava to mix with volatile compounds that expand as they heat up. This expansion pushes the lava up, causing it to blast into the air violently. Until recently, scientists didn't know what gas might have been present on the moon to produce these eruptions. In a paper published this week in Nature Geoscience, researchers show that carbon monoxide was likely the culprit.

The Hubble Space Telescope captured this shot of a cosmic butterfly.

Jets of glowing gas form the wings of this space butterfly. Also known as the Twin Jet Nebula, or PN M2-9, this nebula has two stars at its center instead of the one, like most nebulas. Its unusual shape is likely caused by the way that its two central stars move around one another. It's thought that a white dwarf – a type of small, dense, old star – pulls gas away from its dying partner star as it orbits around it, creating this double-lobed shape. Both stars in the system are about as large as our sun.

NASA indulged us with this video of intentional spacecraft crashes.

The researchers working at NASA's Lunar Landing Research Facility must have a lot of fun. Because let's face it: as cool as it is for a spacecraft to land gently and perfectly, crashing one is even more entertaining. NASA clearly understands this, since it released this montage of destruction in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the lab. All of this has a very scientific purpose, of course — it helps NASA prepare astronauts for the worst.

Stephen Hawking decided that it actually is possible to escape a black hole.

Black holes have presented astrophysicists with a troubling problem. Einstein said, via his theory of general relativity, that all of the physical information sucked into black holes disappears. Quantum mechanics, on the other hand, says that information is eternal. Now, Stephen Hawking says he thinks he has the answer to this paradox. Basically, he believes that when particles fall into a black hole, they leave their quantum mechanical information behind.

"I propose that the information is stored not in the interior of the black hole as one might expect, but on its boundary, the event horizon," Hawking said during a talk on Tuesday at the Hawking Radiation Conference held in Stockholm, Sweden.

The 2D holograms in which he proposes that the information is stored are called "super translations," but once the information is in this form, it is pretty much useless. Alternatively, he proposes that a large enough black hole could also serve as a portal to another universe.

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