Plasma eruptions from the Sun's surface — from small bursts to gigantic eruptions that can cause spectacular auroras on Earth — are all part of the same process and have the same underlying mechanism, a new study in Nature shows.

Why this matters: Electromagnetic radiation from the sun can cause interference with radio and satellite transmissions. The high-energy, charged particles from the sun's eruptions also can endanger astronauts in space (one of the challenges to traveling to places like Mars). Understanding the true nature of the plasma eruptions across the entire spectrum will potentially allow scientists to mitigate risks.

A closer look at the Sun: There are two very different types of hot gas eruptions from the Sun's blazingly hot surface: relatively small bursts of plasma (coronal jets) and huge clouds of plasma (coronal mass ejections) that explode off into space at very high speeds. Because the eruptions are on such vastly different scales, scientists thought they were driven by different processes.

Using 3d computer simulations, scientists from NASA's Goddard Space Center and Durham University in the UK were able to show that the Sun's eruptions are theoretically part of the same process. When large regions of dense, cool gas called filaments become unstable or stressed, they break through the magnetic field that suspends them above the Sun's surface and trigger small and large ejections.

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Over 73 million people watched the first debate on TV

Data: Nielsen; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

More than 73.1 million people watched the first presidential debate on television on Tuesday night, according to Nielsen ratings.

Why it matters: While that's a sizable audience for any American TV program, it's down more than 13% from the record number of TV viewers who tuned in for the first debate of the 2016 election. The chaotic nature of the debate and the overall uncertainty around this year's election may have pushed some viewers away.

Senate passes bill funding government through December

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Senate on Tuesday passed legislation to fund the federal government through Dec. 11, by a vote of 84-10.

Where it stands: The legislation will avert a government shutdown before funding expires Wednesday night and before the Nov. 3 election. The House passed the same measure last week by a vote of 359-57 after House Democrats and the Trump administration agreed on the resolution.

  • Both sides agreed early in negotiations that the bill should be a "clean" continuing resolution — meaning each party would only make small changes to existing funding levels so the measure would pass through both chambers quickly, Axios' Alayna Treene reported last week. The bill now goes to President Trump for his signature.
Bryan Walsh, author of Future
1 hour ago - Technology

The age of engineering life begins

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Synthetic biology startups raised some $3 billion through the first half of 2020, up from $1.9 billion for all of 2019, as the field brings the science of engineering to the art of life.

The big picture: Synthetic biologists are gradually learning how to program the code of life the way that computer experts have learned to program machines. If they can succeed — and if the public accepts their work — synthetic biology stands to fundamentally transform how we live.