Nathaniel Butler / ASU

When stars die and collapse to form black holes, a powerful explosion — second only to the Big Bang itself — occurs. These gamma-ray bursts take place billions of light years away. Across space and therefore time, they're a window into the early universe that opens for just a few milliseconds to a minute. By the time a telescope is turned, they're typically gone.

Last year though, researchers were able to observe an unusually bright one — GRB 160625B, pictured above— using six telescopes on the ground and in space. They caught it early to enough to measure strong changes in the polarized light of the burst for the first time. "That, in turn, tells us that the release of magnetic energy is an important ingredient in these exotic explosions," says Arizona State University's Nathaniel Butler.

A new picture: Spiraling electrons cause radiation that powers magnetic jets in the first moments of the explosion. The magnetic fields then break down and are largely replaced by matter from the dying star that falls into the black hole and is ejected again. Researchers have known about these two processes but thought only one was responsible. Now, it seems it could be both.

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6 mins ago - Economy & Business

Boeing research shows disinfectants kill coronavirus on airplanes

Electrostatic spraying of disinfectant. (Photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines)

Boeing and researchers at the University of Arizona say their experiment with a live virus on an unoccupied airplane proves that the cleaning methods currently used by airlines are effective in destroying the virus that causes COVID-19.

Why it matters: Deep cleaning aircraft between flights is one of many tactics the airline industry is using to try to restore public confidence in flying during the pandemic. The researchers say their study proves there is virtually no risk of transmission from touching objects including armrests, tray tables, overhead bins or lavatory handles on a plane.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Senate Democrats block vote on McConnell's targeted COVID relief bill McConnell urges White House not to strike stimulus deal before election.
  2. Economy: Why the stimulus delay isn't a crisis (yet).
  3. Health: Studies show drop in COVID death rate — The next wave is gaining steam — The overwhelming aftershocks of the pandemic.
  4. Education: Schools haven't become hotspots — San Francisco public schools likely won't reopen before the end of the year.

Senate Democrats block vote on McConnell's targeted COVID relief bill

Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Senate Democrats on Wednesday blocked a vote on Republicans' $500 billion targeted COVID-19 relief bill, a far less comprehensive package than the $1.8 trillion+ deal currently being negotiated between the Trump administration and House Democrats.

Why it matters: There's little appetite in the Senate for a stimulus bill with a price tag as large as what President Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been calling for. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) "skinny" proposal was mostly seen as a political maneuver, as it had little chance of making it out of the Senate.