November 2013: An asteroid with six tails
The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a strange
asteroid spewing six comet-like tails of dust. This could be a sign that the
asteroid is breaking apart.
Dateline - 2 November 2013: Total solar eclipse (not visible
Early Sunday morning on November 3, sky watchers
along the east coast of North America might notice something missing - a piece
of the sun. A partial solar eclipse will be underway at sunrise. In the United
States, visibility stretches all the way from Maine to the southern tip of
Florida. Later, the Moon will cover the entire sun producing a total eclipse
over parts of the Atlantic Ocean and Africa. Click
for observing tips and more information.
Dateline - 1 November 2013: Music of the spheres ?
As Voyager 1 recedes from the solar
system, researchers are hoping the spacecraft will beam back tones from plasma
waves, a form of 'interstellar music' that reveals conditions in the realm of
the stars. Find out what deep space sounds like in this new
video from NASA.
Dateline - 25 October 2013: Solar activity is high and
This morning, new sunspot AR1882 unleashed an
X1-class solar flare. The flare was bracketed by two erupting magnetic filaments
- an ensemble of explosions that involved more than half of the solar disc. For
more information on these blasts and any possible effects they may have on
planet Earth, click
Dateline - 22 October 2013: Another exploding comet
Amateur astronomers are reporting a 100-fold
outburst of brightness from Comet C/2012 X1 (LINEAR). Images reveal a
spherical shell of gas that reminds observers of Comet 17P/Holmes (see
), which exploded in 2007. Although it has brightened by six magnitudes, so
far the comet is too dim for naked-eye viewing, but at magnitude +8.5 it is
bright enough for imaging by backyard telescopes. It is currently between the
stars Denebola and Arcturus, low in the north-east just before dawn. It will be
lost in the dawn light for observers in Queensland. Click
for photos and more information.
Dateline - 10 October 2013: A lonely planet found without a star
Astronomers using a telescope in Hawaii have
found a planet floating alone in space and not orbiting a star. Click
for more. (Contributed by Lee)
Dateline - 6 October 2013: Spacecraft goes into lunar orbit
Among a select few allowed to work during the
current US government shutdown, controllers for NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and
Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) fired the spacecraft's engines this
morning, October 6, slowing it enough to be captured by lunar gravity. LADEE
is now in orbit around the Moon. Soon, the spacecraft will begin its mission
to study the Moon's exotic and extremely tenuous atmosphere, which is much
affected by space weather. Click
for more information about this development, plus new colour images of incoming Comet
ISON, due to be a naked-eye comet at the end of November.
Dateline - 30 September 2013: Magnificent eruption on the Sun
On September 29, a long filament of magnetism in
the sun's northern hemisphere erupted, producing a magnificent CME (Coronal Mass
Ejection) and several must-see movies from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory.
Although the CME was not aimed at Earth, our planet might receive a glancing
blow from the cloud on October 2-4. Click
for more information and updates.
Dateline - 24 September 2013: Amateur astronomers spot Comet
Comet ISON is now close enough for amateur
astronomers to photograph through backyard telescopes. The comet is not as
bright as forecasters expected, but experts say it is still on track to become
an impressive sun-grazing comet later this year.
Dateline - 14 September 2013: The Sun has gone strangely quiet
Right in the middle of Solar Max, the Sun has
entered one of its deepest quiet spells in years. Flare activity has subsided
and the sun's x-ray output has flatlined. This event highlights the
unpredictability of the solar cycle. Click
for updates and commentary.
Dateline - 12 September 2013: Voyager 1 has left the
In an unexpected turn of events, researchers have
realized that Voyager 1 left the solar system about a year ago. This event sets
in motion a new era of exploration of the realm between the stars.
Dateline - 11 September 2013: Meteor Firestorm over Europe
Earth is passing through a stream of debris from
an unknown comet or asteroid. It happens every year around this time and
produces a minor shower known as the 'September epsilon Perseids.' This year,
Earth ran into an unusually dense patch of meteoroids, which produced an
outburst of meteors over Europe near midnight on September 9-10. The event is
Dateline - 10 September 2013: ISS 'Firestation'
experiment to explore the tops of thunderstorms
Sometimes, Earth mimics a supernova, producing a
Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flash from the tops of thunderstorms. A new lightning
sensor on the International Space Station (ISS)could solve the mystery of
these energetic bursts.
Dateline - 3 September 2013: Industrial soot linked to retreat
of glaciers in the 19th century
Researchers have uncovered strong evidence that
soot from a rapidly industrialising Europe caused the abrupt retreat of mountain
glaciers in the European Alps that began in the 1860s, a period often thought of
as the end of the Little Ice Age.
Dateline - 3 September 2013: Tenuous lunar atmosphere to be
A NASA spacecraft slated for launch on
September 6 will fly to the Moon to investigate the tenuous lunar atmosphere.
Researchers hope LADEE will solve a mystery that has been puzzling them
since the days of Apollo.
Dateline - 30 August 2013: Major fireball event over USA
Two nights ago, a meteoroid wighing about 45 kg
and travelling at 85 000 kph hit the atmosphere over the southeastern USA and
exploded, producing sonic booms and a fireball as bright as a full Moon.
Researchers are now scouring the countryside for fragments that could reveal the
nature and origin of the meteoroid. A movie, more information, and updates are
Dateline - 23 August 2013: Comet ISON to fly by Mars on
Comet ISON is heading for a Thanksgiving
Day brush with the sun, but first it's going to pay a visit to the Red Planet.
Mars rovers and satellites will have a ringside seat for the comet's close
approach on October 1.
Dateline - 20 August 2013: Sun-diving comet and spectacular
coronal mass ejection (CME)
A small comet plunged into the sun this morning.
Just before it arrived, the sun expelled a magnificent full-halo CME. Did the
comet survive? Find out what happened
Dateline - 17 August 2013: The strange attraction of 'hot
An exotic class of exoplanets called 'hot
Jupiters' are even weirder than astronomers imagined. While these worlds may
have Earth-like blue skies, new data show that they are anything but Earth-like.
Dateline - 16 August 2013: NASA tracks Chelyabinsk meteor plume
New research shows that an asteroid exploding
over Russia earlier this year created a belt of 'meteor dust' that circulated
through the stratosphere for at least three months.
Dateline - 11 August 2013: Perseid meteor shower intensifies
The Perseid meteor shower is intensifying as
Earth moves deeper into the debris stream of parent comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle.
International observers are reporting as many as 30 Perseids per hour from dark
sky sites, a rate which could triple on August 12-13 when the shower peaks.
for updates and observing tips.
CLOUDY SKIES? You can listen to the Perseid meteor
shower on Space Weather Radio, which is monitoring signals from the USAF Space
Surveillance Radar. Every Perseid that flies over the radar makes an audible
ping. Hear the echoes
Dateline - 5 August 2013: The Sun's magnetic field is about to
According to data from NASA-supported
observatories, the sun's global magnetic field is about to reverse polarity.
This is a sign that the Solar Maximum has arrived.
Dateline - 3 August 2013: Possible explanation for Gamma-Ray
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has detected
a new kind of stellar blast called a kilonova, which happens when a pair of
compact objects such as neutron stars crash together. The observation may solve a
longstanding mystery of the causes of gamma-ray bursts.
Dateline - 2 August 2013: First Perseid fireballs reach Earth
Earth is entering a broad stream of debris from
comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle, source of the annual Perseid meteor shower. Although
the shower won't peak until August 12 and 13 when Earth hits the densest part of
the stream, the first Perseids are already arriving. Click
for images and updates.
Dateline - 26 July 2013: Possible fireballs during Perseids
meteor shower in August
New research by NASA's Meteoroid Environment
Office shows that one annual meteor shower produces more fireballs than any
other - the Perseids. This year's Perseid peak is just around the corner on
August 12 and 13.
Dateline - 23 July 2013: A pale blue dot - two
distant spacecraft photograph the Earth from Saturn
Images of Earth taken by two interplanetary
spacecraft show our planet and its moon as bright beacons from millions of miles
away in space.
Dateline - 22 July 2013: The mystery of the missing waves on
Saturn's giant moon Titan is dotted with
hydrocarbon lakes and seas that bear an uncanny resemblance to bodies of water
on Earth. Strangely, though, on Titan there are no waves. In this week's story,
planetary scientist Alex Hayes discusses the mysterious flatness of Titan's
liquid bodies and predicts a sea-change in the near future.
Dateline - 17 July 2013: You can be in this picture (but not if
you live east of Africa)
On Saturday, July 20, NASA's Cassini spacecraft
will photograph Earth through the rings of Saturn. This will be the first time that Earthlings have had advance notice that their
picture will be taken from interplanetary distances. NASA has timed the picture so that all of the USA will be illuminated by the Sun as seen from Saturn. Don't
bother waving from Australia - we will be on the opposite side of the Earth, as the picture will be taken somewhere in the 15 minutes after 7:27 am out time,
and Saturn will have set for us.
Dateline - 15 July 2013: HST discovers new satellite orbiting Neptune
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a
new moon orbiting the distant blue-green planet Neptune.
Dateline - 15 July 2013: A zero-G coffee cup ??
Drinking coffee in space is surprisingly tricky.
Physicists researching the strange behaviour of fluids onboard the International
Space Station have invented a zero-G coffee cup to make the morning 'cuppa'
a little easier to swallow.
Dateline - 11 July 2013: NASA discovers a cobalt blue exoplanet
Astronomers working with NASA's Hubble Space
Telescope have deduced the actual colour of a planet orbiting another star
63 light-years away. The planet is HD 189733b, and its colour is cobalt blue. If
seen directly, this planet would look like a deep blue dot, reminiscent of
Earth's colour as seen from space.
Dateline - 10 July 2013: NASA spacecraft maps the solar system's tail
Like a comet, the solar system has a tail. For
the first time, NASA's IBEX spacecraft has mapped out the structure of this
tail, which is shaped like a four-leaf clover.
Dateline - 1 July 2013: The Mars rover Opportunity has
now been exploring for a decade
When Opportunity left Earth in
2003, many observers expected the rover to survive no more than a few months on
the hostile surface of Mars. Ten years later, Opportunity is still going
strong and could be poised to make its biggest discoveries yet at a place named
Dateline - 25 June 2013: Tally of NEOs reaches 10 000
The count of known asteroids and comets that can
come close to Earth continues to climb. The 10 000th Near-Earth Object (NEO),
asteroid 2013 MZ5, was detected on June 18, 2013 by the Pan-STARRS-1
Dateline - 24 June 2013: New worry about climate change
Arctic permafrost soils contain more accumulated
carbon than all the human fossil-fuel emissions since 1850 combined. Warming
permafrost, poised to release its own gases into the atmosphere, could be the
'sleeping giant' of climate change.
Dateline - 21 June 2013: Chinese Space Station crosses the Sun
China's Tiangong-1 space station,
now crewed by three taikonauts, passed in front of the sun over the south of
France this week. Astrophotographer Thierry Legault captured must-see images of
the transit, which you can see by clicking
Dateline - 21 June 2013: Solstice solar flare
The first day of summer in the northern
hemisphere began with a long-duration M2-class solar flare. The source was
active sunspot AR1777. The blast was not Earth-directed, but future flares from
AR1777 could be, as the active region turns toward our planet this weekend.
for images and updates.
Dateline - 19 June 2013: Earth to be photographed from Saturn
One month from now, on July 19, 2013, NASA's
Cassini spacecraft will photograph Earth through the rings of Saturn.
Dateline - 18 June 2013: Peculiar flames on the ISS
Researchers experimenting with flames onboard the
International Space Station (ISS) have produced a strange, cool-burning form
of fire that could help improve the efficiency of car engines.
Dateline - 11 June 2013: 'Dry Ice' snowboards on Mars
New research suggests that some of the famous
gullies on Mars are caused by slabs of dry ice gliding down sand dunes on
cushions of gas similar to miniature hovercraft.
Dateline - 10 June 2013: Gamma Delphinids Meteor Shower returns
Sky watchers in North America might see an
outburst of meteors during the early hours of June 11 when Earth passes through
a stream of cometary debris last seen in 1930. Forecasters predict the return of
the Gamma Delphinid meteor shower tomorrow morning around 08:30 UT (04:30 am EDT,
6:30 pm AEST). The shower is expected to last about 30 minutes with an unknown
number of bright, fast meteors. It is not expected to be visible from Australia,
as Gamma Delphinus will not rise until just before 10 pm. Click
for more information and updates.
Dateline - 7 June 2013: Noctilucent clouds
Noctilucent clouds have surprised researchers by
appearing early this year. The unexpected apparition of electric-blue
night-shining clouds hints at a change in the ;teleconnections' of Earth's
Dateline - 7 June 2013: New movie of asteroid 1998 QE2
and its moon
Scientists working with NASA's 70-metre Deep
Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California, have released a new and improved
movie clip of near-Earth asteroid 1998 QE2 and its moon. Full
Dateline - 30 May 2013: The asteroid 1998 QE2 is not alone
Newly-obtained radar images of approaching
asteroid 1998 QE2 reveal that the asteroid has a moon. The asteroid,
which is 2.7 kilometres in diameter, is expected
to pass close to the Earth at about 7 am on Saturday, June 1. At its closest
approach, QE2 will be about 5.8 million kilometres from Earth, or about
15 times further away than the Moon.
Dateline - 29 May 2013: New asteroids found
Astronomers using data from NASA's Wide-field
Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) have identified 28 new families of
Dateline - 24 May 2013: Big weather on Hot Jupiters
Astronomers using NASA's Spitzer Space
Telescope are making weather maps of an exotic class of exoplanets called
Dateline - 22 May 2013: Significant explosion on the Sun
A solar radiation storm is in progress on
May 23 (AEST) following an M5-class solar flare on the sun's western limb. The
explosion not only accelerated a hailstorm of protons toward our planet, but
also produced a magnificent CME (coronal mass ejection), which might deliver a
glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field in the days ahead. Click
for more information and updates.
Dateline - 17 May 2013: Bright explosion on the Moon
NASA researchers who monitor the Moon for
meteoroid impacts have detected an explosion ten times brighter than anything
they've seen before.
Dateline - 10 May 2013: Planetary alignment at end of May
Mercury, Venus and Jupiter are lining up for a
beautiful sunset conjunction at the end of May.
Dateline - 10 May 2013: "Ring of Fire" solar eclipse over
As the sun rose over Australia this morning,
May 10, the solar disc turned into a ring of fire - an
annular solar eclipse.
for details and images.
Dateline - 6 May 2013: Glow-in-the-dark plants on the
International Space Station
Can plants adapt to the novelty of climate
change? Researchers seeking to answer this question have sent genetically
engineered plants to the ISS for exposure to extreme conditions. To report their
stress, the plants have learned to glow in the dark.
Dateline - 3 May 2013: Powerful solar flare
For the second time in three days, an active region just over the sun's
east limb has exploded, producing a strong solar flare and Coronal Mass
Ejection (CME). The blast on May 3 registered M5 - not quite an X-flare, but
still strong considering that the edge of the sun partially eclipsed the
explosion as seen from Earth. Solar rotation is turning the active region
toward Earth, and it should emerge later this weekend.
Dateline - 29 April 2013: Hurricane on Saturn
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has spotted a
gigantic hurricane swirling inside a mysterious, six-sided weather pattern known
as 'the hexagon' on Saturn.
Dateline - 29 April 2013: Meteors collide with Saturn's
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has provided the
first direct evidence of small meteoroids crashing into Saturn's rings.
Dateline - 25 April 2013: Saturn at opposition on April 28
Saturn and Earth are having a close encounter. See the ringed planet at
its best and brightest on April 28.
Dateline - 24 April 2013: Hubble Space Telescope
photographs Comet ISON
A new picture of Comet ISON taken by the Hubble
Space Telescope is giving astronomers key information about what might happen
when the comet plunges into the Sun later this year.
Dateline - 19 April 2013: Meteors from Comet ISON may
strike the Earth
A new model of the debris flowing from Comet ISON
suggests that the sungrazer could dust the Earth with meteoroids in early 2014.
Forecasters discuss the possibilities
Dateline - 18 April 2013: Three new planets found in
NASA's Kepler mission has discovered two
new planetary systems that include three super-Earth-size planets in the
'habitable zone', the range of distance from a star where the surface
temperature of an orbiting planet might be suitable for liquid water.
Dateline - 15 April 2013: New signs of Dark Matter found
A particle detector on board the International
Space Station has recorded intriguing signs of Dark Matter that could reveal
what the mysterious substance is made of.
Dateline - 11 April 2013: Incoming solar storm
A strong M6-class solar flare on April 11 has
hurled a CME (coronal mass ejection) toward Earth. Geomagnetic storms and high-latitude auroras are
possible when the fast-moving cloud reaches our planet on April 13. Click
Dateline - 29 March 2013: A new watch on our ozone layer
Life as we know it doesn't thrive on planets
without ozone layers, which is why the recovery of Earth's ozone layer is so
important. A new instrument slated for launch to the International Space Station
(ISS) will monitor our planet's protective ozone cocoon with greater depth and
precision than ever before.
Dateline - 27 March 2013: A comet is heading for Mars
A comet is heading for Mars, and there is a
chance that it might hit the Red Planet in October 2014. An impact wouldn't
necessarily mean the end of NASA's Mars program, but it would transform the
program along with Mars itself.
Dateline - 21 March 2013: The age of the universe now put
at 13.8 billion years
The European Space Agency's Planck
spacecraft has released the most detailed map ever made of the oldest light in
the universe, revealing new information about its age, contents and origins.
Dateline - 15 March 2013: Views of Comet Pan-STARRS
Comet Pan-STARRS has survived its encounter with
the Sun and is now emerging from twilight in the sunset skies of the northern
hemisphere. It is a very difficult object from Australia, being swamped by the
Sun's glare. A NASA spacecraft has beamed back spectacular pictures of a 'wild
and ragged' tail behind the comet's active nucleus.
Dateline - 12 March 2013: Life on Mars ?
An analysis of a rock sample recently collected
by NASA's rover Curiosity shows ancient Mars could have supported living
Dateline - 9 March 2013: Bright comet is close to the Sun
This weekend, bright Comet Pan-STARRS is
making a close approach to the sun inside the orbit of Mercury, where fierce
solar heat is helping the comet reach naked-eye visibility. Observers in the
northern hemisphere are making their first sightings now as the comet emerges
from solar glare low in the western sky after sunset. Soon, the comet could be
widely visible to casual sky watchers - no telescope required. Click
for images, sky maps and observing tips.
Dateline - 8 March 2013: New solar wind discovery
Using data from an aging NASA spacecraft,
researchers have found signs of an energy source in the solar wind that has
caught the attention of fusion researchers.
Dateline - 3 March 2013: Naked-eye comet
Comet Pan-STARRS (C/2011 L4) is now inside
the orbit of Mercury and it is brightening as it approaches the Sun. Observers
in the southern hemisphere say the comet can be seen with the naked eye even
through city lights. Currently, it is about as bright as the stars of Orion's
Belt (magnitude +2 to +3). The comet could become even brighter when it moves
into northern hemisphere skies in the second week of March. Click
for current images and updates.
Dateline - 28 February 2013: A third radiation belt
discovered around the Earth
NASA's twin Van Allen Probes, launched just last
August, have revealed a previously unknown third radiation belt around the Earth.
Dateline - 26 February 2013: What exploded over Russia ?
Nearly two weeks after an asteroid exploded over
Russia's Ural mountains, scientists are making progress understanding the origin
and make-up of the unexpected space rock. Here are their
latest findings with
Dateline - 20 February 2013: Kepler discovers a
tiny planet system
NASA's Kepler mission scientists have
discovered a new planetary system that is home to the smallest planet yet found
around a star similar to our Sun.
Dateline - 15 February 2013: Russian meteor explosion
On February 15, a meteor exploded in the daytime skies of Chelyabinsk,
Russian. Shock waves from the blast shattered windows in many buildings and
sent onlookers to the hospital with wounds from flying glass. The meteoroid
entered the atmosphere just as asteroid 2012 DA14 was approaching
Earth for a record-setting close approach later in the day. However, NASA
says there is no connection between the two - the Russian meteor and 2012
DA14 have different trajectories. A cosmic coincidence? Click
for more information and updates.
Dateline - 15 February 2013: Asteroid flyby tomorrow
The small near-Earth
asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass very close to the Earth on February 15, 2013,
so close that it will pass inside the ring of geosynchronous weather and
communications satellites. NASA's NEO Program Office can accurately predict
the asteroid's path with the observations obtained, and it is therefore
known that there is no chance that the asteroid might be on a collision
course with the Earth. Nevertheless, the flyby will provide a unique
opportunity for researchers to study a near-Earth object up close.
Asteroid 2012 DA14 will be
closest to Earth on February 16, 2013 at about 5:24 am Queensland time, when it will be at a distance of about 27 700 kilometres (17 200
miles) above the Earth's surface. This is so close that the asteroid will
actually pass inside the ring of geosynchronous satellites, which is located
about 35 800 kilometres (22 200 miles) above the equator, but still well above
the vast majority of satellites, including the International Space Station. At
its closest, the asteroid will be only about one-thirteenth of the distance to the Moon.
The asteroid will fly by our planet quite rapidly, at a speed of about 7.8 kilometres/second (17 400 miles
per hour) in a south-to-north direction with respect
to the Earth.
Even though 2012 DA14 is
coming remarkably close, it will still only appear as a point of light in the
biggest of optical telescopes because of its small size. Based on its
brightness, astronomers estimate that it is only about 45 metres
across. It will brighten only to magnitude 7.5, too faint to be seen with the
naked eye but easily visible in a good set of binoculars or a small telescope.
The best viewing location for the closest approach will be Indonesia, from which
the asteroid will be seen to move at a rate of almost one degree per minute
against the star background. Eastern Europe, Asia and Australia are also well
situated to see the asteroid around its closest approach. But by the time the
Earth rotates enough for observers in the continental United States to have a
chance to see the asteroid, it will have receded and faded to about 11th
magnitude. Radar astronomers plan to take images of the asteroid about 8 hours
after closest approach using the Goldstone antenna.
2012 DA14 has not been in
our catalogues for very long - it was discovered in February 2012 by astronomers
at the La Sagra Sky Survey program in southern Spain and reported to the Minor
Planet Centre. The asteroid had just made a fairly distant passage by the Earth,
about 7 times farther than the distance to the Moon when it was first detected
by the Spanish group. Since 2012 DA14's orbital period around the Sun has been
about 368 days, which is very similar to the Earth's, the asteroid has made a series
of annual close approaches, this year's being the closest. But this encounter
will shorten 2012 DA14's orbital period to about 317 days, changing its orbital
class from Apollo to Aten, and its future close approaches will follow a
different pattern. The close approach this year is the closest the asteroid will
come for at least 3o years.
This passage of 2012 DA14 by
the Earth is a record close approach for a known object of this size. A few other known asteroids have flown by the Earth even closer, but
those asteroids were smaller. On average, we expect an object of this size to
get this close to the Earth about once every 40 years. An actual Earth collision
by an object of this size would be expected much less frequently, about once
every 1200 years on average.
Dateline - 15 February 2013: Australian Astronomical
Observatory resumes normal service
On the night of Thursday, February 14, the 4-metre Anglo-Australian Telescope
returned to regular operations after testing, following the dangerous
bushfire that swept through the Observatory grounds on the late afternoon of
January 13 last. Courageous action by thirty members of the Rural Fire
Brigade is credited with saving all the telescopes at Siding Spring
Observatory, although some outbuildings, the accommodation building and the
Visitors' Centre were lost to the flames.
Dateline - 13 February 2013: Asteroid flyby this Friday
Starting at about 4 am on Saturday,
February 16, NASA TV will provide commentary and images of near-Earth asteroid
2012 DA14 as it flies past Earth closer than many artificial satellites.
Dateline - 9 February 2013: Latest news from Mars
In a milestone accomplishment, NASA's
Curiosity rover has drilled into a rock on Mars and gathered material from
its interior. This is the first time any robot has drilled into a rock to
collect a sample on Mars.
Dateline - 6 February 2013: A possible naked-eye comet
A comet falling in from the distant reaches of
the solar system could become a naked-eye object in early March. This is Comet
Pan-STARRS's first visit to the inner solar system, so surprises are possible as
its virgin ices are exposed to intense solar heating for the first time.
Important dates: Comet's closest approach to Earth (160 million kilometres)
is on March 5; comet's closest approach to Sun (just inside the orbit of
Mercury) is on March 10; best times for viewing are on March 13 and 14. Look low
in the western sky soon after Sunset, near the thin crescent Moon.
In the last days of February, Comet Pan-STARRS will be just south of the star
The comet will skirt the western horizon, always involved in twilight, heading north through the constellations of
Aquarius, Pisces and Andromeda.
It will reach the far northern constellation of Cassiopeia at the end of April.
Dateline - 28 January 2013: Near-Earth approach by
asteroid on February 15
On February 15 an asteroid about half the size of a football field will fly
past Earth, closer than many man-made satellites. Since regular sky surveys
began in the 1990s, astronomers have never seen an object so big come so
close to our planet.
Dateline - 28 January 2013: Webcam video as bushfire envelopes Siding
Here is an outside video showing the disastrous
bushfire that passed through the Observatory complex at Siding Spring on the
afternoon and evening of January 13 last. It was edited from a webcam feed taken
from a camera outside the Los Cumbres Observatory Global Network's 2 metre
telescope during the blaze. It is a tribute to the bravery of rural
fire-fighters that the thirteen telescopes on the mountain survived, although
the domes suffered entry by ash and air-borne debris. Click
Dateline - 18 January 2013: The comet of the century ?
Astronomers are keeping a close eye on
newly-discovered Comet ISON, which could become visible in broad daylight later
this year when it skims through the atmosphere of the sun. Some reporters have
dubbed ISON the 'Comet of the Century', but experts aren't yet sure how bright
the sungrazer will become.
Dateline - 14 January 2013: Bushfire envelopes Siding
It now seems that the telescopes on Siding Spring
Mountain have largely avoided destruction by the bushfire that swept over the
mountain and whole observatory complex yesterday afternoon. Webcams and computers at the site, used for robotic
telescope monitoring and operation, still appear to be working normally, despite
temperature sensors indicating a peak air temperature of over 100º C at about
4:25 pm. This is hotter than boiling water. You can see the output from the
sensors and some photos
(contributed by Sean).
One hopes that the temperature sensors were in the open air, and not inside a
building. Some ancillary buildings, sheds, living quarters and the Visitor
Centre have been badly damaged or lost.
The Observatory will be closed for the next two weeks to allow astronomers and
technicians to assess any damage, such as ash entry. With luck, any problems
will not be of a serious nature. These
images show that the telescopes appear to be
intact. Placing astronomical observatories on
mountaintops in wilderness areas brings the attendant risks of bushfires. The
Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona has had two lucky escapes - once when it was
under construction, and another in 2004, the year it was commissioned.
Dateline - 14 January 2013: Bushfire envelopes Siding
Australian astronomers are waking up to the
dreadful news that a large and dangerous bushfire has swept over the
world-famous Siding Spring Observatory, New South Wales, home of the
Anglo-Australian Telescope, during Sunday afternoon, January 13. All staff
at the Observatory were evacuated to nearby Coonabarabran when it became obvious
that the situation was desperate. Early reports say that some buildings have
been destroyed, but that some have survived. We will have to wait anxiously
until Observatory personnel can return to the site and assess the damage. It is
four days less than exactly ten years ago that the Mount Stromlo Observatory
near Canberra was almost totally destroyed in very similar circumstances. At
that time, aluminium domes melted, leaving the telescopes unprotected. The dome
of the 74-inch reflector survived the inferno, but the telescope inside was
reduced to a total loss due to the intense radiant heat. Mount Stromlo has never
recovered and the ruined telescopes will never be replaced. We can but hope that
enough lessons were learned at that time to apply more protective measures at
Siding Spring other than putting heat-proof paint on the buildings. Google
"Siding Spring Observatory bushfire" for latest information.
Dateline - 11 January 2013: Large active sunspot becoming
One of the biggest sunspots of the current solar
cycle is now turning towards Earth. Named AR1654, the active region is crackling
with medium-sized (M-class) flares and could be poised to break the recent spell
of calm space weather around our planet. Click
for images and updates.
Dateline - 8 January 2013: How solar activity can
influence the Earth's climate
A new report issued by the National Research
Council, "The Effects of Solar Variability on Earth's Climate", sets out some of
the surprisingly complex ways that solar activity can make itself felt on our
The Moon and Jupiter are converging for a
heavenly sky show on Christmas Night 2012. Got a telescope? Something is
happening on Jupiter that makes it an extra-interesting target for backyard
NASA is so sure that the world will not come to an
end soon after 9 pm tonight (AEST), they've already released a video about the day after. View
'Why the World Didn't End Yesterday'
A pair of NASA spacecraft orbiting the Moon are
being prepared for a controlled descent into a mountain near the lunar north
pole on December 18. The spacecraft, called Ebb and Flow, are part
of the GRAIL mission (Gravity Recovery And Interior
Laboratory). They have been in orbit around the Moon at a height of
55 kilometres, mapping its gravitational field since the beginning of 2012. On
August 30 their orbits were lowered to a height of 23 kilometres, but now their
fuel tanks (necessary for orbital corrections) are empty. The impacts are
scheduled to occur at 8:28 am next Tuesday, Queensland time.
Forecasters say a stream of meteoroids from Comet
Wirtanen could cut across the Earth's path this week, creating a new meteor
shower. If the shower materialises (a big if), it would add to the ongoing
display of Geminid meteors which peaks on December 14 - 15.
The annual Geminid Meteor Shower is set to peak on
December 13 to 15. The display, which is caused by an unusual 'rock comet',
could produce more than 100 meteors per hour during the dark hours before dawn
this Friday and Saturday.
Dateline - 5 December 2012: New and unusual images of the
night-time Earth from space
New images from a NASA-NOAA satellite reveal the
Earth at night as never seen before. Highlights include views of superstorm
Sandy making landfall in moonlight, photos of Northern Lights over the Arctic,
and spectacular snapshots of city lights.
Dateline - 4 December 2012: Voyager 1 on the
threshold of interstellar space
Eleven billion miles from Earth, NASA's
Voyager 1 spacecraft has entered a 'magnetic highway' that connects our
solar system to interstellar space. This could be one of Voyager 1's last
steps on its long journey to the stars.
Dateline - 29 November 2012: Evidence found for ice on Mercury
The planet closest to the Sun would seem an
unlikely place to find ice. Nevertheless, NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft has
found evidence for abundant deposits of frozen water on Mercury.
Dateline - 23 November 2012: Major discovery on Mars ?
The Mars Curiosity rover team is set to
announce a 'major discovery' on the surface of the Red Planet that 'will be one
for the history books'.
story (Contributed by Lee)
Dateline - 23 November 2012: Australian solar eclipse
Eclipse chasers always hope for clear skies, but
observers of last week's total solar eclipse in Australia discovered that clouds
can add a surprisingly beautiful twist to the brief minutes of totality.
Dateline - 22 November 2012: Activity detected at the
centre of our Galaxy
NASA's NuSTAR spacecraft has
detected X-ray flares coming from the centre of the galaxy - a signal that the
Milky Way's supermassive black hole is increasing its activity.
Dateline - 11 November 2012: Taurid Meteor Shower this
The Earth is passing through a stream of gravelly debris from Comet Encke,
source of the annual Taurid meteor shower. Because the debris stream is not very
congested, Taurid meteor rates are low, no more than 5 per hour. The special
thing about Taurids is that they tend to be fireballs. Click
here for the latest videos and images of the display, which is expected to peak
around November 12 and 13.
Dateline - 8 November 2012: Total Solar Eclipse next
Scientists and sky watchers are converging on the
northeast coast of Australia, near the Great Barrier Reef, for a total eclipse
of the sun on November 14. For researchers, the brief minutes of totality open a
window into some of the deepest mysteries of solar physics.
Dateline - 31 October 2012: Mars soil is like that on
New results from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity show that the mineralogy
of some Martian soil is similar to soils of volcanic origin in Hawaii.
Dateline - 5 October 2012: CSIRO opens the Australian SKA
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has
commissioned its latest radio telescope in Western Australia. Called the
Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, it currently consisted of an array of
36 12-metres dish antennas. It is a first step in the creation of
Australia's part in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
Dateline - 27 September 2012: Latest news from Mars
Curiosity has found evidence that a stream
once ran vigorously across the area on Mars where the rover is now driving.
Dateline - 25 September 2012: New sun-grazing comet
Astronomers are paying close attention to a
newly-discovered comet, C/2012 S1 (ISON), which is heading for a remarkably
close encounter with the sun. Fierce solar heat could turn Comet ISON into a
bright naked-eye object in November 2013. First images and speculation about the
comet are highlighted
(set the date to September 25, 2012).
Dateline - 14 September 2012: Mysterious spheroids on Mars
NASA's Mars rover Opportunity,
still active after all these years, has just discovered a dense accumulation of
puzzling little spheroids in a rock outcrop on the Red Planet.
- 12 September 2012: Planets around a binary star
Once, astronomers thought planets couldn't form around binary stars. Now
Kepler has found a whole system of planets orbiting a double star. This finding
shows that planetary systems are weirder and more abundant than previously
Dateline - 11 September 2012:
Explosion on Jupiter
Amateur astronomers are reporting a bright
fireball on Jupiter - apparently the result of a small asteroid hitting the planet during the
early hours of Sept. 10th. As the fireball fades, attention turns to possible
debris around the impact site. Observers will be monitoring the region in the
nights ahead to see what surfaces. Click
for photos and updates.
Dateline - 3 September 2012:
CME hits Earth
As expected, a coronal mass ejection (CME) hit
Earth's magnetic field on September 3 at approximately 12:00 hrs UT (10 pm, Australian Eastern Standard Time). The impact induced measurable ground
currents in the soil of northern Scandinavia and sparked bright aurorae around
the Arctic Circle. At the time this alert is being issued, a moderately strong (Kp=6)
geomagnetic storm is underway. Click
for photos and updates.
Dateline - 1 September 2012:
Magnificent Eruption on the Sun
On August 31, a magnetic filament on the Sun
erupted in spectacular fashion, producing a long-duration solar flare, a coronal
mass ejection (CME) and one of the most beautiful movies of an explosion ever
recorded by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. The CME propelled by the
blast might deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field in the days ahead.
for movies, forecasts and updates.
Dateline - 30 August 2012:
Probing the Van Allen Belts
Most spacecraft try to avoid the Van Allen Belts,
two doughnut-shaped regions around Earth filled with 'killer electrons'. This
morning NASA launched two heavily-shielded spacecraft directly into the belts.
The Radiation Belt Storm Probes are on a two-year mission to study the
Van Allen Belts and to unravel the mystery of their dangerous unpredictability.
Dateline - 27 August 2012:
Recalling the Apollo 11 Moon landing of 43 years ago
The Apollo 11 moon landing of July 1969 was as
heart-pounding as any modern sci-fi thriller - and far more transformative. To
mark the passing of the man who stepped out of the lunar lander and put his
footprint in the moondust first, NASA invites you to read a retrospective
story about Neil
Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's historic visit to the Sea of Tranquillity.
Rare photos of Neil Armstrong
Dateline - 22 August 2012:
Curiosity is on the move
Curiosity has made its first tire tracks
on Mars. On August 22, the massive rover began driving from its landing site,
which scientists have named 'Bradbury Landing' for the late science fiction
author Ray Bradbury.
Dateline - 19 August 2012:
Curiosity zaps first Martian rock
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has fired its
laser for the first time on Mars, using the beam to study a fist-size rock
Dateline - 17 August 2012: Where on Mars will
Curiosity go first ?
Curiosity is safe on Mars and ready to
roll. In today's story, project scientist John Grotzinger discusses where the
rover might go first.
Dateline - 6 August 2012: Next generation Martian
rover Curiosity has landed successfully
NASA's most advanced Mars rover Curiosity
has landed on the Red Planet. The 900 kilogram rover, hanging by ropes from a
rocket sky-hook, touched down gently onto Mars yesterday to end a 36-week flight
and begin a two-year investigation. Control of the seven-minute hazardous
descent was handled through Canberra's Tidbinbilla tracking station's 70-metre
diameter dish antenna. Tidbinbilla also received telemetry from the spacecraft
and the first pictures taken from the surface, and relayed these to Pasadena in
California. As the Goldstone and Madrid antennas could not observe Mars at the
time of the landing, the role played by Tidbinbilla was paramount to the success
of the mission. As with the landing of Apollo 11 on the Moon in 1969,
Australia's radio telescopes saw these events first and relayed them to the
world. Another Australian connection with the mission is the site chosen for the
landing, Gale Crater. It is named after Walter Frederick Gale, an Australian
amateur astronomer who observed Mars in the 19th century.
With split-second timing, NASA's Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured an amazing snapshot of Curiosity parachuting
to the surface of Mars.
Dateline - 29 July 2012: Martian triangle in the
On the same night Curiosity lands on Mars, a 'Martian Triangle' will
appear in sunset skies of Earth. The first-magnitude apparition on August 6
gives space fans something to do while they wait for news from the Red Planet.
Dateline - 28 July 2012: New African Eye on the Sky
Two days ago, the largest Cherenkov telescope ever built blinked open to gaze at the Namibian
sky. Named HESS II, the giant telescope's 600-tonne bulk and 28-metre
segmented mirror will survey the southern hemisphere, hunting for violent, high-energy cosmic
sources such as supermassive black holes, supernovae and pulsars.
(Contributed by Lee.)
Dateline - 24 July 2012: Is global warming real ?
For several days this month, Greenland's surface
ice cover melted over a larger area than at any time in more than 30 years of
satellite observations. Nearly the entire ice cover of Greenland experienced
some degree of melting, according to measurements from three independent
Dateline - 16 July 2012: New Mars Rover approaching
the Red Planet
As Curiosity nears Mars for a daring landing on August 5/6, NASA has released
a suite of video games and virtual experiences for members of the general public who wish to follow the massive rover across the sands of the Red Planet.
Dateline - 16 July 2012: Filaments of dark matter
'observed' for the first time
Is this the first direct evidence that the universe is filled by a lacework of dark matter
filaments, upon which the visible matter in the universe is distributed like small beads?
(Contributed by Lee.)
Dateline - 13 July 2012: Solar flare aimed towards
The big sunspot AR1520 erupted on July 13 around
2:53 Australian Eastern Standard Time, producing an X-class solar flare and
hurling a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) directly toward Earth. Forecasters expect
the cloud to arrive on July 14. Its impact could spark moderate to severe
geomagnetic storms, allowing aurorae to be seen at lower latitudes than usual. Click
more information and updates.
Dateline - 12 July 2012: Astronomers find evidence
of dark galaxies
Chile using a powerful telescope have observed what appears to be evidence of
the existence of dark galaxies.
((Contributed by Sharon.)
Dateline - 12 July 2012:
Another moon discovered orbiting Pluto
While scanning the Pluto system for possible
hazards to the approaching New Horizons spacecraft, astronomers using the
Hubble Space Telescope have discovered a fifth satellite orbiting
the dwarf planet, and it is the smallest.
(Contributed by Sharon)
Dateline - 11 July 2012: Hubble Ultra-deep Field in
is what happened when astronomers pointed the Hubble Space Telescope at what appeared to be absolutely nothing, and left it there
for a photographic exposure of 11 days. Then they made the images into a 3-D presentation,
using the red-shifts for the galaxies that were recorded. The results will surprise you. Turn your sound on
- there is a narration.
Dateline - 11 July 2012: Elqui Domos - the hotel
Want to watch the stars wheeling overhead from
your hotel bed? You can do it from
. (Contributed by Lee.)
Dateline - 21 June 2012: Voyager 1 prepares to
leave the Solar System
At the edge of the solar system, Voyager 1
is reporting a sharp increase in cosmic rays that could herald the spacecraft's
long-awaited breakthrough into interstellar space.
Dateline - 15 June 2012: Why won't the supernova explode ?
A question has been troubling astronomers: why
won't the supernova explode? While real stars blow up, computer models of
massive dying stars do not result in much of a bang. NASA has launched a new
observatory named "NuSTAR" to seek out the missing physics of stellar
Dateline - 11 June 2012: Landing site chosen for next Mars
Rover, due to arrive in eight weeks
NASA has narrowed the landing zone for Mars rover
Curiosity, which is due to reach the Red Planet in August. The rover will
touch down closer to its science target, but also closer to the foot of a
mountain slope that poses a landing hazard.
Dateline - 9 June 2012: NASA gets two Hubble-class space
telescopes from the Military
Two space telescopes with mirrors as big as that
in the Hubble Space Telescope have been given to NASA by the National
Reconnaissance Office (NRO) for free. Designed as spy satellites, they are now
regarded as surplus to requirements, and have never flown. Find out more
. (Contributed by Lee.)
Dateline - 9 June 2012: New photographs of Mars released
See 35 high resolution pictures of the Martian
surface taken by the Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter (MRO) by clicking
. (Contributed by Lee.)
Dateline - 7 June 2012: Hubble and Venus transit the Sun
Transits of Venus are rare. Transits of Venus
with the Hubble Space Telescope alongside are unprecedented. Astrophotographer
Thierry Legault has captured a historic photo of Hubble crossing the face of the
sun right beside the inky-black disk of Venus. It is highlighted on today's
edition of Spaceweather - click
The world's largest collection of Venus Transit
images may be found in Space Weather's new real-time photo gallery - click
Dateline - 5 June 2012: Transit of Venus today
The historic 2012 Transit of Venus commences today, June 6.
On the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, it will begin at 8:15 am and end at 2:26
pm. Mid-point of the transit will occur at 11:20 am. It is
important to know that staring at the Sun at any time, whether during a transit
or not, is extremely dangerous. Eye damage will occur within a second, and
continued exposure will lead to blindness. Astronomers use special filters to
protect their eyes and cameras. The use of dark glass, welding goggles or
exposed photographic film provides no protection at all. If you don't have
access to approved solar filters, the safest way to see the transit is to watch
it on television.
Spaceweather.com is covering the event with observing tips, a
real-time photo gallery, and links to live webcasts from around the world.
Extraordinary photos of Venus taken during the hours leading up to the transit
are also featured. Click
Dateline - 5 June 2012: Transit of Venus tomorrow
Astronomers hope to glimpse a 'ring of fire' around Venus
during its historic transit across the sun on June 6. The apparition, if it is
seen, could help crack some of the deepest mysteries of the second planet.
Dateline - 31 May 2012: Transit of Venus to be watched
from the International Space Station
High above Earth, astronaut Don Pettit is about
to become the first human to witness and photograph a transit of Venus from
space. His images and commentary will be streamed to Earth during the crossing.
Dateline - 31 May 2012: We are on a collision course with
the Andromeda Galaxy - impact in 7 billion years' time
NASA astronomers announced today that they can now predict with
certainty the next major cosmic event to affect our galaxy, sun, and solar
system: the titanic collision of our Milky Way galaxy with the neighbouring
Dateline - 29 May 2012: Close encounter with a small
A small asteroid is flying past Earth today inside the
orbit of geosynchronous satellites and only 14 000 kilometres above the surface
of our planet. Named '2012 KT42', the three to ten metre wide space rock ranks
#6 on the Top-Twenty list of known close-approachers to Earth, which makes it
significant despite its small size. However, it poses no danger. More
information and images may be
Dateline - 28 May 2012: Partial lunar eclipse next Monday
On Monday evening, June 4, the Moon will pass
through the shadow of the Earth, producing a partial lunar eclipse visible throughout the Pacific hemisphere. From eastern
Australia, the eclipse will begin at 6:47 pm as the Moon enters the Earth's penumbra. This part of the eclipse will be hardly noticeable to the casual
observer. The Moon will move into the Earth's main shadow or umbra at 7:59 pm, and this begins the main part of the eclipse which will be easily seen with the
unaided eye by everyone who cares to look. Mid-eclipse will occur at 9:03 pm, when 38% of the Moon will be in darkness - virtually everything south of the
crater Arzachel. The umbral phase will end at 10:07 pm, and the eclipse will be over at 11:07 pm.
Dateline - 28 May 2012: Ruby Payne-Scott's 100th birthday
The first woman radio astronomer was Ruby Payne-Scott, known for her towering intellect and singular way of thinking for herself. She was an
Australian who did all her research for the CSIR and then the CSIRO. Most of her pioneering research was on solar radio bursts. She passed away in 1981,
and deserves to be better known.
Dateline - 26 May 2012: Square Kilometre Array to be
shared between South Africa and Australia
A decision was made on May 25 that the bulk of
the dish antennas of the SKA (over 3000) will be located in South Africa at the
MeerKAT site on the Karoo. A smaller number will be in Australia at the
Boolardy site in Western Australia. Southern Africa will also host the
medium-wave tile antenna arrays, and Australia will host the low-wave dipole
arrays. Other southern African nations involved in the project include Botswana,
Namibia, Mozambique, Madagascar, Mauritius, Zambia and Kenya. New Zealand is
partnered with Australia. This will produce a planet-wide radio telescope, and
South Africa will have the world's largest scientific instrument on its soil,
with two-thirds of the SKA.
It seems that the higher labour costs in Western Australia (due to the mining
boom) damaged Australia's chances of winning the whole SKA.
Dateline - 24 May 2012: Dragon chases
International Space Station
As SpaceX's Dragon capsule approaches the
International Space Station for a historic docking on May 25, amateur
astronomers have been taking pictures of the two spaceships converging. Their
photos and more information about the Dragon-ISS rendezvous are highlighted on
today's edition of
Dateline - 18 May 2012: Annular Solar Eclipse next Monday
On Monday, May 20, the Moon will pass in front of
the Sun, producing a 'ring of fire' solar eclipse visible across the Pacific
side of Earth from China to the United States. Observing tips, visibility maps,
and links to live webcasts may be found
The eclipse will not be visible from Australia.
Dateline - 18 May 2012: Transit of Venus on June 6
It won't happen again until December 11, 2117. On
June 6, 2012, Venus will transit the face of the sun. The historic event will be
visible from Queensland between 8:16 am and 2:44 pm, weather permitting. Do not
look at the Sun to see the transit without correct eye protection filters.
Dateline - 16 May 2012: List of PHAs (Potentially
NASA has just released a new count of asteroids
that come close to the orbit of Earth and could survive entry through our
planet's atmosphere. The data, gathered by an infrared space telescope named
WISE, reveal important new information about the origin and make-up of these
potentially hazardous space rocks.
Dateline - 15 May 2012: Solar eclipse this Chinese space station transits the
On the morning of Monday, May 21, the Moon will
pass in front of the Sun, producing an annular solar eclipse visible across the
Pacific side of Earth from China to the United States. No part of the eclipse
will be visible from Australia.
Dateline - 14 May 2012: Chinese space station transits the
A photographer in France has caught China's
experimental space station, the Tiangong-1, passing directly in front of
the sun. The photo shows the winged spacecraft backlit by hot plasma as it
crosses the solar disc in the vicinity of giant sunspot AR1476. You can find
is much smaller than the International Space Station. Nevertheless, it
can be seen with the naked eye shining in the night sky as brightly as the stars
of Leo. Download the Simple Flybys app for sighting opportunities in your
Dateline - 8 May 2012: NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope
detects a 'super-Earth' beyond our solar system
The planet, called 55 Cancri e, falls into a class of planets termed super-Earths, which
are more massive than our home world but lighter than giant planets like
Neptune. The planet is about twice as big and eight times as massive as
Earth. It orbits a bright star, called 55 Cancri, in a mere 18 hours.
Dateline - 3 May 2012: The Aquarid meteor swarm is on this
Earth is entering a stream of debris from
Halley's Comet, source of the annual eta Aquarid meteor shower. The shower peaks
this weekend on May 5-6. Glare from a perigee full Moon - a 'Super
Moon' - will interfere with the display. Nevertheless, observers especially in
the southern hemisphere could still see dozens of meteors during the hours
before local sunrise on May 6. More information about the shower and live
audio from a meteor radar may be found
Dateline - 2 May 2012: Full Moon this weekend is biggest and
brightest Full Moon this year
The Full Moon of next Sunday night, 6 May, is a perigee moon,
as much as 14% bigger and 30% brighter than other Full Moons of 2012.
Dateline - 21 April 2012: The Lyrid meteor shower is on this
The annual Lyrid meteor shower peaks this weekend on the night of
April 22-23 when Earth passes through a stream of debris from ancient Comet
Thatcher. Usually the shower is mild (10-20 meteors per hour) but unmapped
filaments of dust in the comet's tail sometimes trigger outbursts ten times
stronger. This year's peak coincides with a new Moon, so lunar interference will
not be a problem. The promise of a good display has prompted NASA to plan an
unusual 3D meteor photography experiment combining observations from the ground,
a research balloon, and the International Space Station. Look towards the
north-east in the hours between 2 am and dawn. More information, observing tips,
and live audio from a meteor radar are available
Dateline - 18 April 2012: The Lyrid meteor shower in 3D
Astronomers and astronauts are joining forces for
an unusual astrophotography experiment during the peak of the Lyrid meteor
shower on April 21.
Dateline - 17 April 2012: Spectacular explosion on Sun
This morning at around 3:45 am AEST, magnetic
fields curling over the sun's northeastern limb rose up and erupted, producing
one of the most visually-spectacular explosions in years. The event, which also
produced an M1.7-class solar flare and a coronal mass ejection, was not
Earth-directed. Nevertheless, it confirms suspicions that a significant active
region is rotating onto the Earth-side of the sun. Click
for movies and updates (set date to April 16).
Dateline - 13 April 2012: New information on tornadoes
One year after the historic tornado outbreak of April 27-28, 2011,
researchers say they've learned a few things about deadly twisters. Today's
story from NASA presents some of the scientific findings that emerged from the
swath of destruction.
Dateline - 6 April 2012: The scale of the universe
Human beings exist in the centre of the universe
- not with regards to our position in space, but midway between the microcosm
and the macrocosm. Click
here. Use your
mouse wheel to move the slider backward and forward. Contributed by Tim
Metelerkamp and Gary Taylor.
Dateline - 5 April 2012: Decision on location of Square
Kilometre Array (SKA) delayed
The international consortium to decide whether the SKA should be built in Australia or South Africa has appointed another
working party to deliberate on the recommendations of the first, which recommended that the SKA should be built in Africa, with telescopes in eight
countries, two of which are engaged in civil wars. The first working party stated that building the SKA in Africa would improve the lot of the native
peoples there. Such a statement clearly emphasises the apparent disconnect between ivory-tower academics and the real world.
Dateline - 2 April 2012: Venus passes through the Pleiades star
cluster on April 3 and 4
Tonight and tomorrow night, Venus and the Pleiades
star cluster will meet in the evening sky for a rare and beautiful conjunction.
Dateline - 16 March 2012: Peculiar high-energy photons discovered
NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is finding hundreds of new objects at the very edge of the electromagnetic
spectrum. Many of them have one thing in common -- astronomers have no idea what they are.
Dateline - 14 March 2012: Incoming solar storm
Sunspot AR1429 unleashed another strong flare (category M7.9) on March 13. The explosion produced a significant coronal mass ejection (CME), which
forecasters say should reach Earth on March 15. Geomagnetic storms are possible when the cloud arrives. Click
Dateline - 14 March 2012: Sun-diving comet
A bright comet related to sungrazing Comet
Lovejoy is diving into the sun. The orbiting Solar and Heliospheric Observatory
(SOHO) is monitoring the comet's death plunge even as the sun peppers the
spacecraft with energetic particles accelerated by the March 13 solar flare.
Images of the comet are featured on today's edition of
Dateline - 7 March 2012: Increasing solar activity
Big sunspot AR1429 has unleashed another major flare - an X5-class
eruption on March 7 at 10:28 am, Queensland time. As a result of the blast, a
radiation storm is underway and a CME (coronal mass ejection) will likely hit
Earth's magnetic field in a day or so. Geomagnetic storms are already in
progress at high latitudes due to earlier eruptions from the active sunspot.
Last night, auroras were spotted over several northern US states including
Michigan and Wisconsin. Click here
for updates and images.
Dateline - 2 March 2012: The aurora borealis at your feet
Lately, the International Space Station has been
flying through geomagnetic storms, giving astronauts an close-up view of the
aurora borealis just outside their windows.
Dateline - 23 February 2012: 25 years since SN 1987A
Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of the appearance of the Large Magellanic
Cloud supernova SN 1987A.
Dateline - 21 February 2012: Solar eclipse from space
At 8:38 am this morning, February 22 AEST, the
new Moon passed in front of the sun, producing a solar eclipse visible from
space. High-resolution images of the event captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics
Observatory are featured
Dateline - 13 February 2012: International Space Station flyover
of Aurora Borealis produces stunning video
for the video sequence.
(Contributed by Lee.)
Dateline - 10 February 2012: Alien matter in the solar system
"Alien matter" detected by a NASA spacecraft
orbiting Earth shows that the chemical make-up of our solar system differs from
that of the surrounding galaxy. Researchers discuss the possible meaning of this
mismatch in today's story from Science@NASA.
A video version of this story is available
Dateline - 2 February 2012: Space probe to land on a comet in 2014
Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft is en route to
intercept a comet, and to make history. In 2014, Rosetta will enter orbit
around Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and land a probe on it for a front row
seat as the comet heads toward the disintegrating heat of the Sun.
A video version of this story is available
Dateline - 27 January 2012: Powerful solar X-flare
Earth-orbiting satellites detected a powerful
X2-class solar flare today, January 28, at 1837 UT (4:37 am AEST). The source
was departing sunspot 1402. The blast produced a spectacular CME (not Earth
directed) and accelerated energetic protons toward Earth. A low-level radiation
storm is now in progress around our planet.
for images and updates.
Dateline - 22 January 2012: Geomagnetic activity
The Earth's magnetic field is reverberating from
a CME impact (Coronal Mass Ejection from the Sun) during the eveningy hours of
January 22 AEST. The hit compressed Earth's magnetic field, briefly exposing
some geosynchronous satellites to solar wind plasma, and disturbed the
ionisation structure of Earth's upper atmosphere. Arctic sky watchers are
presently reporting bright aurorae in response to a polar geomagnetic storm (Kp=5).
for images and updates.
Dateline - 12 January 2012: Stars blowing bubbles to be counted
An effort to find the
"bubbles" that young, massive stars blow has succeeded in finding more than 10
times as many as were known about before. Members of the public are invited to
examine astronomical photographs on-line in order to search for more of them.
Some may be seen in the Starfield Observatory image below.
(Contributed by Lee.)
Cat's Paw Nebula
Dateline - 12 January 2012: Some comets like it hot
Astronomers are still scratching their heads over
Comet Lovejoy, which plunged through the atmosphere of the sun in December and,
against all odds, survived. The comet is now receding into the outer solar
system leaving many mysteries behind.
A video version of this story is available
Dateline - 11 January 2012: Tiny solar system discovered
NASA's Kepler spacecraft has discovered the tiniest solar system
so far: a red dwarf star with three rocky planets smaller than Earth.
Dateline - 5 January 2012: Failed Mars probe photographed
Phobos-Grunt, a Russian Mars probe stuck
in Earth orbit since November, is sinking back into the atmosphere. Best
estimates suggest re-entry will occur on January 15 or 16. Meanwhile,
sky-watchers can see the probe moving through the night sky, sometimes shining
as brightly as a first-magnitude star. French astrophotographer Thierry Legault
recently photographed Phobos-Grunt through a 14-inch telescope, revealing
its outlines and perhaps a clue as to why the probe has had difficulty
communicating with Earth. His images and video are highlighted
(set date to January 5).
Dateline - 3 January 2012: First meteor shower of 2012
The annual Quadrantid meteor shower peaks on Thursday morning, January 5,
when Earth passes through a narrow stream of debris from a comet thought to have
broken apart some 500 years ago. The shower is expected to be strong (as many as
100 meteors per hour), but elusive, with a peak that lasts no longer than a
couple of hours. The shower's radiant near Polaris favours observers in the
northern hemisphere. Images, live audio from a meteor radar, and more
information are available
Dateline - 30 December 2011: Origin of meteorites from the asteroid
The discovery of a towering mountain on Vesta
could solve a longstanding mystery: How did so many pieces of the giant asteroid
end up right here on our own planet?
Dateline - 30 December 2011: New spacecraft due to go into lunar
orbit in a couple of days
NASA's twin GRAIL spacecraft, on a mission to map the Moon's
gravitational field, are nearing their New Year's Eve and New Year's Day
main-engine burns to place the duo in lunar orbit.
Dateline - 28 December 2011: Comet Lovejoy photograph
The following photograph of Comet Lovejoy was
taken from Starfield Observatory at Nambour at 3:38 am on Tuesday, December 27.
The comet's nucleus is at R.A. 16 hours 58 minutes, Dec. -46 degrees 53 minutes,
near the boundary between the constellations Scorpius and Ara. The tail appears
on the image to be at least 26 degrees long. As it was superimposed on the
molecular clouds that make a dark lane extending from Alpha Centauri to the
galactic centre and beyond, it was quite easy to see with the unaided eye. Some
stars of the Southern Cross (Alpha and Beta Crucis) appear near the top
right-hand corner of the image. The comet is moving away from the Sun, heading
towards the star Atria in Triangulum Australe (Southern Triangle) and the South Celestial Pole.
The tail is fainter on each successive morning.
This comet was discovered on November 27, 2011 by Terry Lovejoy, a Brisbane
amateur astronomer. It is the third comet to bear his name.
Dateline - 23 December 2011: Comet Lovejoy photographs
Astronauts onboard the International Space
Station have seen sungrazing Comet Lovejoy from Earth orbit. ISS commander Dan
Burbank describes the comet's green-glowing tail as "the most amazing thing I
have ever seen in space." Video from the ISS and updated images from Earth are
Dateline - 20 December 2011: Two more Earth-sized planets discovered
NASA's Kepler spacecraft has found two
Earth-sized planets orbiting a distant sun-like star. These alien worlds are
intermingled in their star system with other much larger planets, an arrangement
which challenges orthodox ideas of how planets are formed.
Dateline - 20 December 2011: Comet Lovejoy survives encounter with
Sun, now visible at dawn
Comet Lovejoy is receding from the sun, remarkably still
intact after its December 16 plunge through the solar atmosphere. Multiple
observers in the southern hemisphere are now reporting that they can see and
photograph the comet's tail shining through the twilight of sunrise. Pictures of
this rare apparition are highlighted
you have the date of December 20 chosen).
Dateline - 16 December 2011: Comet Lovejoy collides with Sun
Sungrazing Comet Lovejoy has shocked astronomers
by surviving its 'death plunge' into the sun. Must-see movies of the comet's
passage through the sun's atmosphere are featured in today's
Dateline - 10 December 2011: Eclipse of the Moon tonight
A total eclipse of the Moon will occur on December 10 next, and will be visible
from all of Australia. It will begin later in the evening, and will continue
until the early hours of December 11. The circumstances are as follows
Penumbral eclipse begins:
Partial umbral eclipse begins:
Total eclipse begins:
Total eclipse ends:
Partial umbral eclipse ends:
Penumbral eclipse ends:
Eclipses of the Moon are quite safe to look at.
Dateline - 9 December 2011: Is Vesta the smallest terrestrial planet
NASA's Dawn probe, now orbiting Vesta in the asteroid belt, has
found some surprising things on the giant asteroid- - hings that have prompted
one researcher to declare Vesta "the smallest terrestrial planet."
Dateline - 8 December 2011: New evidence for water on Mars
As NASA's newest Mars rover Curiosity heads for the Red Planet,
veteran rover Opportunity continues to make discoveries. Opportunity's
latest find, an apparent vein of the mineral gypsum, is a definite sign of past
water on Mars, say researchers.
Dateline - 5 December 2011: Kepler space observatory finds a
In a significant milestone on the road to finding Earth's 'twin'
elsewhere in the galaxy, NASA's Kepler mission has confirmed its first
planet in the habitable zone of a distant sun-like star.
Dateline - 3 December 2011: New Horizons spacecraft passes a
NASA's New Horizons mission has reached a
special milestone on its way to study the Pluto system, coming closer to the
dwarf planet than any other spacecraft. On board New Horizons are some of
the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, the man who discovered Pluto, and an experiment
called Venetia, after the little girl who named it.
Dateline - 26 November 2011: Coronal mass ejection and radiation
A solar radiation storm is in progress around Earth. At the moment (the
early afternoon of November 27), the storm is classified as minor, which means
it has little effect on our planet other than to disturb HF radio transmissions
at high latitudes. Bigger effects, however, could be in the offing. The same
blast that caused the radiation storm also hurled a CME into space, and this CME
appears set to deliver a blow to Earth's magnetic field on November 28-29.
Geomagnetic storms and aurorae are possible when the cloud arrives. Click
for more information and updates.
Dateline - 26 November 2011: Mars rover Curiosity is now on
its way to the red planet
NASA's biggest and most capable Mars rover ever
(as big as an SUV)
left Earth this morning in a perfect launch from Cape Canaveral. The new
rover, named Curiosity, is due to reach the Red Planet in August 2012.
Dateline - 16 November 2011: Evidence found for liquid water on
Jupiter's moon Europa
Scientists studying data from NASA's Galileo probe have found
evidence for a body of liquid water the volume of the North American Great Lakes
locked inside the icy shell of Jupiter’s moon Europa. The finding could have
significant implications for the search for life beyond Earth.
Dateline - 14 November 2011: Does the Moon have an ionosphere ?
How can a world without air have an ionosphere?
Somehow the Moon has done it. Lunar researchers have been struggling with the
mystery for years, and they may have finally found a solution.
Dateline - 13 November 2011: Massive increase in solar activity
The sun is putting on one of its best displays in the new solar cycle -
not with sunspots and flares, but rather with towering walls of plasma and
filaments of magnetism. One dark filament is stretching more than a million
kilometres across the face of the sun, about three times the distance between
Earth and the Moon.
pictures and more information about these remarkable structures.
Dateline - 7 November 2011: Near-Earth asteroid close flyby tomorrow
NASA radars are monitoring 2005 YU55, an asteroid the size of an aircraft
carrier, as it heads for a November 9 flyby of the Earth-Moon system. There is
no danger to our planet. At closest approach on Wednesday at 9:28 am Australian
Eastern Standard Time, the space rock will be 324 600 kilometres away, a little
closer than the Moon. Nevertheless, professional astronomers are eagerly
anticipating the flyby as the asteroid presents an exceptionally strong radar
target. Amateur astronomers in Europe or America might be able to photograph it
during the hours around closest approach, but this will occur in daylight hours
for Australian observers. Click
for observing tips and more information.
Dateline - 3 November 2011: Huge sunspot appears
One of the biggest sunspot groups in many years has just emerged over the
sun's eastern limb. The sunspot's magnetic canopy is crackling with M-class
(medium-sized) solar flares and seems poised to launch even stronger X-class
eruptions. The sunspot, named AR1339, is not yet directly facing Earth but it
will be turning toward our planet in the days ahead.
for images of the behemoth and updates.
Dateline - 31 October 2011: A star with spiral arms ?
Using a Japanese telescope, NASA-supported researchers have found the
first clear case of a star with spiral arms.
Dateline - 31 October 2011: Happy Birthday ! The Parkes Radio
Telescope is fifty years old today
The need for a powerful
radio telescope in Australia was recognised in 1951 when the 21 cm emission line
of neutral hydrogen was detected in Sydney. The Chief of the CSIRO Division of
Radiophysics at the time was Dr Edward G. "Taffy" Bowen, and his vision,
enterprise and enthusiasm brought the concept to reality. Fund-raising began in
1954, and donations came from overseas and the Australian public. The Carnegie
Corporation and the Rockefeller Foundation each donated US
$ 250 000, the
Foundation later adding
The Prime Minister Mr
Robert Menzies was impressed by this level of foreign support, and agreed that
the Commonwealth Government would pay the remainder of the costs (which would
be rather more than half). By 1959 a firm of engineers, Freeman, Fox and
Partners, were asked to prepare a detailed design and drawings for an instrument
with a steerable dish antenna 210 feet in diameter.
The contract to build was
signed in July 1959, and the concrete tower was ready to receive the turret and
hub structure by February 1960. The turret and hub machinery were constructed by
Maschinenfabrik Augsburg-Nürnberg A.G. (generally known as M.A.N.) The drive and
servo-control system was subcontracted to the Manchester firm of
Metropolitan-Vickers, and the master-equatorial unit was constructed by
Askania-Werke of West Berlin. These parts were shipped to Parkes and installed
on the tower, ready to receive the 'Dish'. The surface of the parabolic
reflector was supported on 30 radial ribs, cantilevered out from the central
hub. The ribs were cut and assembled in jigs on the site, and welded at
night, when all parts were at the same temperature. A huge crane 240 feet high
was used to lift them into place. Assembly of the ribs on the hub was begun in
March 1961. The dish was completed by September of that year, and installation
of the complex computer and electronic equipment used for driving the telescope
was completed just prior to the official commissioning of the telescope on
October 31, 1961. This ceremony was performed by His Excellency the
GovernorGeneral of Australia, Viscount De L'Isle.
Dateline - 25 October 2011: Explosion from the Sun strikes the Earth
A coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth's magnetic field this morning at
around 4 am AEST. The impact strongly compressed our planet's magnetosphere and
may have exposed geosynchronous satellites to solar wind plasma. Mild to
moderate geomagnetic storms are possible in the hours ahead as Earth's magnetic
field continues to reverberate from the hit. Sky watchers in Scandinavia,
Canada, and northern-tier US States should be alert for auroras, especially
during the hours around local midnight.
Dateline - 24 October 2011: Interesting finds on Mercury
NASA's MESSENGER probe has discovered a
surprise on Mercury: something is digging 'hollows' in the surface of the
Dateline - 21 October 2011: Massive satellite will re-enter this
The massive ROSAT X-ray space telescope is making its final spiralling
orbits around Earth. Most experts agree that re-entry will occur during 23
October or the early hours of 24 October, over a still-unknown region of our
planet. Sky watchers report that the descending satellite can be as bright as a
first magnitude star and it occasionally flares to even greater intensity. For
last-chance sightings of ROSAT in your area, please check
local flyby times
Dateline - 20 October 2011: Orionids meteor shower this weekend
Earth is about to pass through a stream of debris from Halley's comet,
source of the annual Orionid meteor shower. Forecasters expect the shower to
peak on Saturday and Sunday mornings, 22 and 23 October, with more than 15
meteors per hour. Earth isn't the only world in the debris stream; NASA
researchers will also be watching for meteoroid strikes on the Moon.
Dateline - 18 October 2011: 600 mysteries in space
The Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope recently
produced a map of the night sky. Out of 1873 new sources, nearly 600 were
complete mysteries. In today's story from Science@NASA, researchers speculate on
the nature of the mystery objects--including the possibility that they are made
of dark matter.
Dateline - 15 October 2011: Another large satellite due for re-entry
within two weeks
The ROSAT X-ray observatory, launched in 1990 by NASA and managed for
years by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), will return to Earth within the next
two weeks. Current best estimates place the re-entry between October 22 and 24
over an unknown part of the Earth. ROSAT will produce a spectacular fireball
when it re-enters, but not all of the satellite will disintegrate. According to
the DLR, heat-resistant fragments as massive as 1.7 tonnes could reach the
Earth's surface. Click
LAST-CHANCE SIGHTINGS: As ROSAT slowly descends
it is growing brighter. During favourable passes, the satellite can now be seen
shining as brightly as a first magnitude star in the night sky. Local flyby
times may be found using SpaceWeather's Satellite Tracker:
Dateline - 5 October 2011: Astronomer in Australia shares 2011 Nobel
Prize for Physics
Brian P. Schmidt, a U.S. and Australian citizen,
Head of the High-z Supernova Search Team, Distinguished Professor, Australian
National University, has been awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics in
conjunction with the Americans Saul Perlmutter of the University of California's
Berkeley campus, and Adam G. Riess of Johns Hopkins University at
Baltimore, Maryland. The award is for measuring the accelerating expansion of
the universe through the study of type 1a supernovae in distant galaxies.
Dateline - 4 October 2011: Meteor outburst predicted for 8 October
Forecasters say Earth is heading for a stream of
dust from Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. A close encounter with the comet's fragile
debris could spark a meteor outburst over parts of our planet on October 8.
Dateline - 29 September 2011: New Rover going to Mars
NASA's newest rover 'Curiosity'
is getting ready to leave Earth. Its destination: Gale Crater on Mars. Today's
story explains the attraction of this Martian crater with a strangely-sculpted
mountain the middle.
Dateline - 22 September 2011: Space Station aurora movie
Astronauts onboard the International Space Station have recorded their
best views yet of auroras dancing in the high atmosphere of Earth during a
geomagnetic storm on Sept. 17th. Their must-see movie, just released by NASA,
can be seen
Dateline - 20 September 2011: Large satellite to burn up within days
UARS (Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite), a NASA spacecraft the
size of a small bus, will re-enter Earth's atmosphere in the late hours of
September 23 or some time on September 24, producing
a brilliant fireball somewhere over our planet. NASA still cannot give any
estimate of where it will come down. Observers of the rapidly-decaying satellite say it is tumbling and
flashing, sometimes almost as brightly as Venus. Video images featured
show how the doomed satellite looks through a backyard telescope.
Dateline - 19 September 2011: Explosions on the Sun could have major
effects on Earth
NASA-supported researchers say that solar flares have been keeping a
secret. The new finding, reported in the Astrophysical Journal, suggests
that explosions on the sun could affect Earth even more than previously thought.
Dateline - 16 September 2011: Movie flying over the asteroid Vesta
A just-released video from NASA's Dawn
spacecraft takes viewers on a beautiful flyover of the giant asteroid Vesta.
Dateline - 15 September 2011: Orbiting observatory Kepler
discovers a world with two Suns
The existence of a world with a double sunset, as
portrayed in the film Star Wars more than 30 years ago, is now scientific
fact. NASA's Kepler mission has made the first unambiguous detection of a
'circumbinary planet' (a planet orbiting two stars) 200 light-years from Earth.
Dateline - 13 September 2011: Comet dives into Sun today or tomorrow
A comet will hit the Sun today. Just discovered
by comet hunters Michal Kusiak of Poland and Sergei Schmalz of Germany in data
from SOHO, the icy visitor from the outer solar system is expected to brighten
to first magnitude before it disintegrates on September 14.
for more, and to follow the comet's death plunge.
Dateline - 10 September 2011: James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)
faces a precarious future
The replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope,
the JWST, faces a very uncertain future, due to the state of the American
economy. Two interesting articles on this topic are linked here, one from
and the other from the journal Nature
Dateline - 9 September 2011: Geomagnetic storm in progress in the
Earth's polar regions
A strong geomagnetic storm (Kp=7) is in progress following the impact of
a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) during the evening of September 9. This could be
the first of several hits from a series of CMEs expected to reach Earth during
the weekend. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras after
nightfall. (Observing tip: The hours around midnight are often best for aurora
for more information and updates.
Dateline - 2 September 2011: Spacecraft on its way to Pluto
Dwarf planet Pluto is a world of mystery waiting to be visited for the
first time. NASA's New Horizons probe is racing across the solar system
for a close encounter that could dramatically alter what researchers know about
Pluto and other small worlds.
Although it is travelling at about 1.5 million kilometres per day, it will take
another four years to reach its destination.
Dateline - 24 August 2011: Stars as cool as the human body ?
A NASA spacecraft has discovered a half-dozen 'Y
dwarfs' with atmospheric temperatures as low as 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Dateline - 18 August 2011: See a solar storm engulf the Earth
For the first time, a spacecraft far from Earth
has turned and watched a solar storm engulf our planet. The movie, released
today during a NASA press conference, has galvanized solar physicists, who say
it could lead to important advances in space weather forecasting.
Dateline - 16 August 2011: New mission to asteroid
NASA is planning a daring new mission to visit a near-Earth asteroid. The
spacecraft, named OSIRIS-REx, will orbit the asteroid 1999 RQ36 for a
year before gathering samples for return to Earth.
Dateline - 4 August 2011: Salt water flowing on Mars ?
A new study of images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
suggests that salt water may be actively flowing across the surface of the Red
Dateline - 4 August 2011: Continued solar activity
For the third day in a row, sunspot 1261 has unleashed a significant
M-class solar flare. The latest blast at 1:57 pm today registered M9.3 on the
Richter Scale of Flares, almost crossing the threshold into X-territory
(X-flares are the most powerful kind). Also, at least two coronal mass ejections
(CMEs) are en route to Earth, and they could provoke mild to moderate
geomagnetic storms when they arrive in the next two days. High-latitude sky
watchers should be alert for aurorae.
for details and updates.
Dateline - 29 July 2011: New spacecraft heading for Jupiter
The clouds of Jupiter hide many mysteries - from the roots of
monster storms to possible stores of exotic matter. NASA's Juno
spacecraft, scheduled to launch on August 5, is going to find out what lies
inside the giant planet.
Dateline - 21 July 2011: Space Shuttle program now ended after 30
Space shuttle Atlantis landed in Florida
this morning, bringing an end to NASA's 30-year shuttle program. Just 21 minutes
before the de-orbit burn, a photographer in Germany snapped what may be the
last-ever photo of a shuttle in space. He caught Atlantis transiting the face of
the sun, silhouetted against a backdrop of solar fire in conjunction with nearby
sunspot AR1254. Click
for images and more information.
Dateline - 20 July 2011: A fourth moon found orbiting PlutoT
Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have
discovered a fourth moon orbiting Pluto. The new satellite was uncovered in a
Hubble survey searching for rings around the dwarf planet.
Dateline - 19 July 2011: The International Space
Station flies over the Sunshine Coast tonight
Tuesday, July 19: Look low in the west-north-west just before 5:51 pm. The ISS will pass due north at 5:54 pm,
41° above the horizon. Very bright at magnitude -2.9.
Dateline - 18 July 2011:
Dawn spacecraft is sending back images
of the asteroid Vesta
NASA's Dawn spacecraft, which over the weekend became the first
spacecraft to orbit a main-belt asteroid, has just returned a close-up image of
Dateline - 14 July 2011:
Dawn spacecraft will go into orbit
around asteroid Vesta tomorrow
On July 15, NASA's ion-propelled Dawn spacecraft will become the first
mission to enter orbit around a main-belt asteroid.
Dateline - 12 July 2011: Schedule for the International Space
Station + Atlantis flying over Nambour in early evenings this weekend
Later this week, the ISS docked with the space
shuttle Atlantis will be ideally placed for Sunshine Coast observers (if
the skies are clear). Here is where to look:
Friday, July 15: Look low
in the north-west just before 6:30 pm. The ISS will pass due north at 6:32 pm,
29° above the horizon. Very bright at magnitude -2.2.
Saturday, July 16: Look low in the west-north-west at
7:08 pm. The
ISS will pass due north at 7:10 pm, 26° above the horizon. Very bright at
Sunday, July 17:
Look low in the north-north-west at 6:10 pm. The
ISS will pass almost overhead at 6:13 pm, 79° above the horizon. Extremely
bright at magnitude -4.0.
Dateline - 11 July 2011: Dark fireworks on the Sun
NASA has just released new movies of an inky-dark solar explosion that continues
to puzzle experts more than a month after it happened.
Dateline - 7 July 2011: Great white storm on Saturn is encircling
It began as a white dot in Saturn's northern
hemisphere late last year. Within days, the dot - a giant, Earth-sized storm -
grew larger and longer. Soon the storm was spreading around the planet. It's
still growing, and the Cassini spacecraft in Saturn orbit has been
photographing it continually.
Dateline - 24 June 2011: Asteroid in close approach to Earth
Newly-discovered asteroid 2011 MD will pass only 12 000 kilometres (7 500 miles)
above Earth's surface next Monday, June 27. This means that it will pass much
closer to us than our weather satellites. NASA analysts say there is no chance
the space rock will strike Earth. Nevertheless, the encounter is so close that
Earth's gravity will sharply perturb the asteroid's trajectory.
One of Canberra's longest-running legal disputes has ended in
a victory potentially worth tens of millions of dollars for the Australian
National University. The ANU has spent eight years suing global insurance giant
Aon Risk Services in the ACT Supreme Court and the High Court of Australia over
$27 million it claimed it was owed after the destruction of its Mt Stromlo
scientific installations in the 2003 bushfires. The settlement amount is
shrouded in secrecy but the university is understood to be "pleased" with the
figure the insurance-broking multi-national has agreed to pay.
The case marked a low point for the ACT Supreme Court when
savaged by the High Court in 2009 over its handling of the case with one High
Court Justice remarking that the matter should go down in legal history - for
how not to conduct litigation.
The university had already recovered $33 million of its
estimated $61 million losses from its other insurers, Chubb, CGU and ACE
Insurance who agreed in 2006 to settle. But the legal fight against Aon, the
university's insurance broker, dragged on for another five years until the
After a mediation process, Aon agreed to settle on the eve of
what was expected to be another marathon court encounter. The case had the
potential to keep the presiding judge, ACT Supreme Court Justice Malcolm Gray,
from retiring as planned next month, and more appeals to the High Court were
anticipated. The legal bills for the university and the insurance broker could
have run into the millions with Aon at one point engaging the services of three
Sydney ‘silks‘ or senior barristers, each charging thousands of dollars for a
A university spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that the case
had settled and that no further legal action was pending between the university
and the insurance broker, but declined to confirm how much Aon had agreed to
pay. A spokeswoman at Aon's Australian head office in Sydney declined yesterday
to comment on the case.
Most of the Mt Stromlo complex was destroyed on January 18,
2003 when some suburbs of Canberra were engulfed in a firestorm that killed four
people and destroyed more than 500 homes. The university's $61 million claim
against its insurers and brokers included the loss of the buildings at Mt
Stromlo and tens of millions of dollars worth of scientific equipment, including
The settlement deal closes the chapter on one of the last
legal battles arising from the bushfires but another case is rumbling on in the
ACT Supreme Court. About 100 landowners and insurance giant QBE are suing the
NSW and ACT governments, seeking compensation and alleging negligence in
firefighting planning and warning the community of the impending danger.<
Dateline - 27 May 2011: Sail flashes from Nanosail-D
NASA's Nanosail-D, the first solar sail to
orbit Earth, is flashing as it glides through the night sky. Observers in Europe
report luminous peaks as bright as a first magnitude star. The irregular period
of the flashes suggests that the sail might be tumbling, although no-one is
certain at this moment what is causing the phenomenon. Sky watchers are
encouraged to click
and check the Simple Satellite Tracker for local flyby times and watch this
unique spacecraft strobe overhead.
Dateline - 19 May 2011: Major storm in Saturn's northern hemisphere
A storm of rare power has formed in Saturn's
northern hemisphere. Wreaking havoc for months, it now stretches around the
entire planet and can be seen through backyard telescopes.
Dateline - 18 May 2011: The International Space Station and Space
Shuttle Endeavour will be crossing our evening skies this week
Keep a lookout during the early evenings for the next few
days for the ISS and the Space Shuttle Endeavour. They are very bright. Tonight the
ISS will be passing across, followed by Endeavour close behind. They all
move from west to east, but fade after crossing the meridian, as they pass into
the Earth's shadow. The Hubble Space Telescope will also be visible this week.
Here is a list of the satellites you can see:
Dateline - 18 May 2011: Free-floating orphan planets in space
Astronomers have discovered a new class of planets floating alone in the dark of space, without any parent stars. These lone worlds are probably
outcasts from developing planetary systems and, moreover, they could be twice as numerous as the stars themselves. They therefore could contribute to the
mysterious dark matter thought to exist in interstellar and intergalactic space.
Dateline - 16 May 2011: Tornado track seen from space
NASA has released a unique satellite image
tracing the damage of a monster EF-4 tornado that tore through Tuscaloosa,
Alabama, on April 27.
Dateline - 9 May 2011: A beautiful conjunction of planets
No coffee? No problem. To wake up any morning this week, all
you need to do is look out the window for a beautiful dawn conjunction of
Dateline - 4 May 2011: A space-time vortex around our planet is real
Today, NASA announced the results of an epic physics
experiment which confirms the reality of a space-time vortex around our planet. Full
Dateline - 28 April 2011: Voyager probes heading towards the threshold of
More than 30 years after they were launched, NASA's two Voyager probes have
reached the edge of the solar system.
They are now 17.3 billion kilometres from Earth, much further out than the dwarf
planet Eris, which itself is twice as distant as Pluto at aphelion, but are
still only 16 light hours from Earth. They are passing through the Kuiper Belt
at present, and will later enter the Oort Cloud. After over 16 000 years passing
through the Oort Cloud, they will leave the last vestiges of the solar system
behind, and will begin to cross the vast gulf to the nearest star to the Sun,
Alpha Centauri. The Voyagers
reach this distance in about 52 000 more years.
Both are carrying a message to possible extraterrestrial
civilizations on a golden LP record. Highlights include greetings from humans
and whales, some of Earth's greatest music, and the brainwaves of a young woman
in love. Full
Dateline - 12 April 2011: Yuri Gagarin, first man in space, 50 years
The first orbit of the Earth by a human being occurred fifty years ago today.
Dateline - 7 April 2011: Spacecraft enters asteroid belt
NASA's Dawn spacecraft has entered the asteroid belt and it is closing
in on giant asteroid Vesta.
Dateline - 3 April 2011: Space plane flares
The US Air Force X-37B space plane is circling Earth on a classified
mission. Although its orbit is officially unpublished, amateur sky watchers have
spotted it and are monitoring its progress. This week, a veteran observer
witnessed a spectacular flare from the X-37B, exceeding the brightness of Venus. Details may be found
Dateline - 3 April 2011: Saturn's rings surge in brightness
This weekend, Saturn will be at
opposition - that is, opposite the sun in the skies of Earth. Whenever this
happens, Saturn's rings surge in brightness due to backscattering of sunlight.
Even a small telescope will show the effect. Click
observing tips and a sky map.
Dateline - 2 April 2011: Storm on Saturn
Saturn shows a massive storm engulfing the northern hemisphere,
dubbed the Serpent Storm due to it snaking its way around 100
degrees of longitude across the planet. The storm isn’t static, and at times it
has stretched over two-thirds of Saturn’s northern hemisphere, which is about
160 000 kilometres. The storm was first noticed by amateur astronomers in December
2010, and currently continues to circle the gas giant.
Dateline - 29 March 2011: NASA's Dawn spacecraft is due to
arrive at the asteroid (minor planet) Vesta in July
As NASA's Dawn spacecraft closes in on Vesta, researchers are
wondering if the behemoth space rock is just an asteroid, or is it something
Dateline - 18 March 2011: MESSENGER probe now in orbit
NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft successfully achieved orbit around Mercury at
approximately 9 pm EDT on March 17. This is the first time a spacecraft has gone
into orbit around the solar system's innermost planet.
[ MESSENGER is an acronym for MErcury
Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry,
and Ranging. ]
Dateline - 16 March 2011: Super Full Moon this Friday night
On March 19, a full Moon of rare size and beauty will rise in the east at
sunset. It's a super 'perigee moon' - the biggest in almost 20 years.
Dateline - 15 March 2011: MESSENGER probe prepares to enter orbit
It's not easy to visit Mercury, but NASA is about to settle in for a long stay.
The MESSENGER probe enters orbit around the innermost planet on March 17.
Dateline - 14 March 2011: Mercury visible in the west at sundown
This week, sky watchers have a rare opportunity to see Mercury at its best as
NASA's MESSENGER probe prepares to enter orbit around the innermost planet.
It will be just to the right of Jupiter on March 15 and 16.
Dateline - 2 March 2011: The Mystery of the spotless Sun - solved?
When solar activity recently plunged into a century-class minimum, many experts
were puzzled. Now a group of researchers say they have cracked the mystery of
the missing sunspots.
Dateline - 25 February 2011: Space Shuttle Discovery begins
its final mission
This morning, the Space Shuttle Discovery
was successfully launched on its final trip into Earth orbit. It will deliver supplies to the
International Space Station and will return to Earth at the conclusion of
its 12-day mission. Discovery is the most-travelled
manned spaceship, having flown 230 million kilometres on 39 missions.
Dateline - 24 February 2011: Huge explosion on Sun yesterday
A massive cloud of plasma exploded over the eastern limb of the Sun last night
(Australian time), heralding the approach of a new active region. The
spectacular blast, which produced strong radio emissions, a coronal mass
ejection, and an M3-class solar flare, was not Earth-directed. Future eruptions
could be, however, as the sun's rotation turns the blast site toward our planet
in the days ahead.
for images and movies.
Dateline - 11 February 2011: Rocket destroys sundog (parhelion)
One year ago, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory amazed observers when it
destroyed a sundog en route to orbit. A new analysis of the event is shedding
light on the surprising way rocket shock-waves interact with clouds.
Dateline - 9 February 2011: Comet probe to meet comet Tempel 1
NASA is about to discover how solar heat devours a comet as the Stardust-NExT
probe closes in for a Valentine's Day encounter with Tempel 1.
Dateline - 6 February 2011: STEREO spacecraft photographs
Super Sun-day, NASA's STEREO spacecraft moved into position to photograph the
entire sun - front and back. Researchers say that this is a transforming moment
in solar physics that could lead to big advances in space weather forecasting.
(STEREO = Solar-Terrestrial Relations Observatory).
Dateline - 1 February 2011: Flashes seen from NanoSail-D
NASA's first Earth-orbiting solar sail, NanoSail-D, is circling our
planet and attracting the attention of sky watchers. Occasionally, sunlight
glinting from the sail's reflective fabric produces a flash of light in the
night sky. These "solar sail flares" are expected to grow brighter as
NanoSail-D descends in the weeks ahead.
Dateline - 31 January 2011: Robot to join crew of International
Robonaut 2, a dexterous humanoid robot explorer, is set to leave Earth
in a few weeks to join the crew of the International Space Station.
Dateline - 28 January 2011: Double blast on Sun
morning, a spectacular double eruption on the Sun produced the strongest solar
flare of the year so far (an M1-class event). Plasma clouds produced by the
event are expected to miss Earth, so no geomagnetic storms are in the offing.
movies of the eruption captured by SOHO
Solar Dynamics Observatory
Dateline - 28 January 2011: Strange light pillars seen in Nebraska
A photographer has recorded extraordinary pillars of light shooting into the
night sky from a corn mill in Nebraska. The tall luminous columns were capped
with nested V-shaped tops that distinguished them from ordinary urban light
photos and an explanation of the icy phenomenon.
Dateline - 24 January 2011: New solar sail spacecraft deployed
In a stunning reversal of fortune, NASA's NanoSail-D
unfurled a gleaming sheet of space-age fabric 650 km above Earth, becoming the
first-ever solar sail to circle our planet.
Dateline - 12 January 2011: Comet on the way ?
2010 ended with an unprecedented flurry of small comets diving into the Sun.
Researchers say this could herald a much larger comet still to come.
Dateline - 11 January 2011: Thunderstorms may produce anti-matter
At any given moment, about 1800 thunderstorms are in progress somewhere around
the globe. New observations by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope
that many of these thunderstorms may be making antimatter.
Dateline - 6 January 2011: Fantastic solar eclipse, plus ISS
When the sun rose over Europe on January 4, a piece of it was missing. The Moon
had covered as much as 86% of the solar disk, producing a partial solar eclipse
and a fantastic crescent-shaped sunrise. The most amazing apparition, however,
may have occurred in the Sultanate of Oman, where for less than a second the
Moon and the International Space Station
partially eclipsed the sun at
the same time. Click
Dateline - 30 December 2010: Piece of asteroid returned to Earth
It was one of the most compelling space stories of 2010:
The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency's Hayabusa spacecraft returned
to Earth with tiny pieces of asteroid Itokawa. In this article, a NASA
specialist on the Hayabusa science team describes the nail-biting sample
return and hints at new results from the ongoing analysis.
Dateline - 28 December 2010: Big storm on Saturn
Got a telescope for Christmas? Point it at Saturn. A giant storm even brighter
than Saturn's rings is raging through the planet's cloudtops. Amateur images and
sky maps are featured
Dateline - 12 December 2010: Geminid meteor shower
The Geminid meteor shower peaks this year on December 13 to
15. Forecasters say meteor rates could exceed 100 per hour for observers under
dark rural skies. For best results, start your meteor watch tonight, December
13, just before midnight. Keep an eye out for Geminids until sunrise on
Wednesday, December 15. There's no special trick to seeing the Geminids, simply
lie on the ground and look up. Geminids can appear in any part of the sky, but
all their tails will point back to the radiant in the constellation Gemini.
updates, images and a sky map.
Dateline - 12 December 2010: Asteroid develops a spiral-shaped tail
The asteroid 596
Scheila, located in the main asteroid belt between Mars and
Jupiter, has suddenly developed an apparently spiral-shaped tail. The surprising
structure might be a result of a recent asteroid-asteroid collision, or perhaps
a sign that this asteroid is really a comet. Current thinking, supported by
recent close-ups of cometary nuclei by near-encounter spacecraft, indicates that
asteroids and comets are similar in their structure, the comets simply having
more volatiles in their makeup, which are evaporated off as they approach the
Sun. An image of 596 Scheila is featured
Dateline - 7 December 2010: Gemind meteor shower encounters the
Earth next week
The annual Geminid meteor shower peaks this year on December 14 and 15.
Researchers don't fully understand the Geminids, and new measurements, they say,
make the shower more mysterious than ever.
Dateline - 6 December 2010: Massive filament develops on the Sun
spectacular filament of magnetism is snaking around the sun's southeastern limb.
From end to end it stretches more than 700 000 kilometres - a full solar radius
or almost twice the distance from Earth to the Moon. The massive structure is an
easy target for backyard telescopes (monitoring is encouraged) and it has the
potential for an impressive eruption if it happens to collapse in the hours or
Don't attempt to observe this through a telescope if it is not equipped with an
approved hydrogen-alpha filter.
for the latest
pictures and updates.
Dateline - 30 November 2010: Jupiter's missing stripe returning ?
A disturbance in Jupiter's atmosphere thought to herald the return of the
planet's missing stripe is growing rapidly and now stretches almost halfway
around Jupiter's globe. It is so big, novice observers are beginning to notice
it in the eyepieces of backyard telescopes.
for the latest images
and a sky map.
Dateline - 23 November 2010: Comets from other stars
Some of the comets in our Solar System probably came from
other stars, according to new research by NASA-supported scientists. Studying
these 'alien' comets, they say, could reveal new information about stellar
systems far, far away.
Dateline - 18 November 2010: Comet snowstorm engulfs Comet Hartley 2
At a press conference today at NASA headquarters, researchers
released beautiful new images of an unprecedented snowstorm engulfing Comet
Dateline - 15 November 2010: Tycho Brahe's remains exhumed for study
After 409 years, the death of Tycho Brahe, the greatest naked-eye astronomer who
died in 1601 in suspicious circumstances, is being investigated. Click here
for a press report. (Thanks to Greg and Michelle Rogers for this link.)
Dateline - 15 November 2010: Baby black hole close by
An amazingly young black hole - only 30 years old - has been found
in a nearby galaxy by astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory.
Dateline - 12 November 2010: The Earth has a tail
Did you know Earth has a long tail of dust? It's real, and it
could lead researchers to the discovery of distant alien worlds.
Dateline - 11 November 2010: Jupiter's missing stripe returning ?
arlier this year when Jupiter's great South Equatorial Belt (SEB)
vanished, researchers urged amateur astronomers to be alert for its eventual
return. The SEB had come and gone before, they noted, and the revival was
something to behold. Alert:
It might be happening now. An
energetic white plume is rising above Jupiter's cloudtops, possibly heralding
the return of the giant planet's missing stripe.
images and updates.
Dateline - 8 November 2010: Conference to discuss storms from the
Prompted in part by a recent increase in solar activity, more than
a hundred researchers and government officials are converging on Helwan, Egypt,
this week to discuss a matter of global importance: storms from the sun.
Dateline - 8 November 2010: Possible new comet experiencing an
A comet discovered just a few days ago by amateur astronomers in Japan is
gliding by Saturn in the pre-dawn sky. Comet Ikeya-Murakami (C/2010 V1)
is not visible to the unaided eye, but observers say it is a fairly easy target
for backyard telescopes. Images obtained over the weekend reveal what appears to
be an outburst in progress. The comet's coma (atmosphere) bears a striking
resemblance to the coma of Comet Holmes, which famously exploded in 2007. Click
for photos and more information.
Dateline - 4 November 2010: Last flight of Space Shuttle
Weather forecasters estimate a 60% chance of favourable
weather for space shuttle Discovery's scheduled launch on Saturday,
November 6, at 5:04 am AEST (Nambour time). If Discovery launches on
time, it will dock with the International Space Station at 12:55 am AEST
on Monday, November 8, delivering supplies, spare parts, and a new
robot crew member. Check the
launch blog for updates.
LATEST NEWS: The launch is now delayed until November 30 at the
Dateline - 4 November 2010: Comet Hartley 2 flyby a big success
This morning's Deep Impact (EPOXI) flyby of Comet
Hartley 2 was a success. The probe is transmitting data to Earth and, even
without processing, the first raw images of the comet's core are spectacular.
for images and updates.
Dateline - 3 November 2010: Comet Hartley 2 encounter tomorrow
NASA's Deep Impact (EPOXI) probe is closing in on
Comet Hartley 2 for a daring flyby on November 4. The small but active comet is
full of surprises, with spinning jets, geysers of cyanide gas, and a strangely
pickle-shaped core. Mission scientists expect to reveal first images from the
flyby during a press conference on Friday morning, November 5, around 6 am AEST
(Queensland time). Tune into NASA TV to follow events live, and meanwhile read
for a preview:
Dateline - 3 November 2010: Farside solar flares
An active region just over the sun's eastern horizon is
crackling with solar flares and hurling material high above the stellar surface.
One of today's flares, a C4-class event, created a wave of ionization in Earth's
upper atmosphere despite the fact that the blast site was not directly visible
from Earth. The source of this activity appears to be old sunspot 1112, which
has spent the last ~12 days transiting the far side of the sun, and is now about
to turn back toward our planet. Click
for movies of today's activity and updates.
Dateline - 2 November 2010: Poisonous comet
A surge of cyanide gas from the nucleus of Comet Hartley 2 has
researchers wondering, what is going on in the core of this small but active
comet? Answers are in the offing as NASA's EPOXI mission prepares for a daring
flyby on November 4.
Dateline - 28 October 2010: Sun tornado
Earlier today, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) recorded a
spectacular eruption on the sun's northeastern limb. An unstable magnetic
filament hundreds of thousands of kilometers long pirouetted and launched a
fragment of itself into space. Earth was not in the line of fire, but the SDO
movie is worth seeing anyway. Click
to see the movie.
Dateline - 28 October 2010: Asteroid flyby
Asteroid 2003 UV11 will fly past Earth on Oct.
29 and 30 at a distance of only 2 million kilometres. Experienced amateur
astronomers should have little trouble photographing the 600-metre wide space
rock as it glides through the constellation Pegasus on Friday night, glowing
about as brightly as a 12th magnitude star. Observers in North America and
Europe are favoured. Click
for an ephemerides
and more information.
Dateline - 27 October 2010: New mission to Moon
pair of NASA spacecraft that were supposed to be dead a year ago are instead
flying to the Moon for a breakthrough mission in lunar orbit.
Dateline - 27 October 2010: Bright fireballs may be associated with
Comet Hartley 2
A pair of unusual fireballs over Canada and the south-eastern USA have
experts wondering if Comet Hartley 2 might produce a meteor shower in early
November. A bright fireball was also seen over south-east Queensland on the
evening of October 19.
Dateline - 21 October 2010: Volatile gases discovered on the Moon
Nearly a year after announcing the discovery of water
molecules on the moon, scientists say there's more than just water ice hiding in
cold lunar craters.
Dateline - 20 October 2010: Sun-diving comet
A newly-discovered comet is plunging toward the sun for a close encounter it
probably will not survive. The comet is too deep in the sun's glare for human
eyes to pick out, but it is showing up nicely in coronagraph images from the
Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).
the latest movies.
Dateline - 20 October 2010: Orionid meteor shower
Earth is passing through a stream of debris from Halley's Comet, and this is
causing the annual Orionid meteor shower. Bright moonlight is reducing the
number of visible meteors; nevertheless, sky watchers are reporting some bright
Orionids. The best time to look is during the hours before local dawn on October
21 to 23.
for a sky map
and more information.
Dateline - 16 October 2010: New solar flare
The strongest solar flare in nearly three months erupted from
sunspot 1112 on October 16th. Remarkably, the M1-class event did not disrupt a
huge magnetic filament passing right by the blast site. Future eruptions might,
however, if this active sunspot continues to grow as quickly as it has in the
past few days. Click
to view movies of the event
from the Solar Dynamics Observatory.
Dateline - 16 October 2010: Comet 103P/Hartley 2 at its best
For backyard stargazers, the next few nights are the best
time to see green Comet 103P/Hartley 2 as it approaches Earth for an 18 million
kilometre close encounter on October 20. Set your alarm for the dark hours
before dawn, say 3:30 am, go outside, and look towards the northern horizon. You will find
Hartley 2 passing by the narrow triangle in the constellation Auriga called 'The
Kids', near the bright star Capella. Although the comet is barely
visible to the unaided eye, it is easy to locate using binoculars and looks
great through a backyard telescope. Sky maps and more information may be found
Dateline - 15 October 2010: Comet flyby in early November
NASA's Deep Impact/EPOXI spacecraft is hurtling toward Comet
103P/Hartley 2 for a breathtaking flyby on November 4. Mission scientists say all
systems are go for a close encounter with one of the most active comets they've
Dateline - 13 October 2010: Asteroid near miss
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured rare
images of a suspected asteroid collision. The snapshots show a bizarre X-shaped
object at the head of a comet-like trail of material.
Dateline - 11 October 2010: Asteroid near miss
Newly-discovered asteroid 2010 TD54 will fly by Earth at 8:50
pm AEST on Tuesday, October 12, about 45 000 kilometres above the planet's
surface. This means that it will pass through the Earth-Moon system lower than
some of our satellites. It was discovered three days ago and will pass over
Singapore. At closest approach, the 7-metre space rock will shine like a 14th
magnitude star as it races through the constellations Pisces and Aquarius. There
is no danger of a collision. Click
ephemerides and more information.
Dateline - 1 October 2010: Comet is approaching
Green comet 103P/Hartley 2 is approaching
Earth for a close encounter on October 20. At that time, the comet will be only
18 million kilometres (0.12 AU) from our planet and should be dimly visible to
the naked eye from dark sky sites. It already looks great through backyard
telescopes, as shown by images featured
Presently cruising through the northern
constellation Cassiopeia, the comet will pass close to the Perseus double
cluster on October 8. It will be between Capella and The Kids on October 19 and
will head then south-east through the pentagon of the constellation Auriga.
NASA's Deep Impact/EPOXI spacecraft is en route to this comet for
close-up studies and a daring flyby on November 4.
Dateline - 20 September 2010: Jupiter at its best
Tonight, September 21-22, Earth and Jupiter converge for
their closest encounter in decades. The giant planet will soar across the sky at
midnight, outshining everything except the nearby almost-full Moon itself.
Although big, bright Jupiter will remain close to Earth for weeks to come,
tonight is the closest of all. Click
for images and more information.
Dateline - 15 September 2010: Jupiter nears a close opposition
Jupiter and Earth are converging for their closest
encounter in more than a decade. Only the Moon itself is outshining the giant
planet in the midnight sky, and the view through a telescope is great.
Dateline - 9 September 2010: Jupiter is being bombarded by small
In a paper published today in the Astrophysical Journal
Letters, a group of professional and amateur astronomers announced that Jupiter
is being hit by small asteroids, lighting up the giant planet's atmosphere with
Dateline - 9 September 2010: Spectacular eruption on Sun
Just as sunspot 1105 was turning away from Earth on Sept 8, the active region
unleashed a spectacular eruption of plasma and extreme ultraviolet radiation.
Earth was not in the line of fire - this time. Click
for must-see movies from the Solar Dynamics Observatory and other spacecraft.
Dateline - 2 September 2010: Spacecraft planned to plunge into the
NASA's daring plan to visit the sun took a giant leap
forward today with the selection of five key science investigations for the
Solar Probe + spacecraft.
The mission is due to begin some time before 2018.
Dateline - 26 August 2010: New exoplanets discovered by Kepler
NASA's Kepler spacecraft has discovered two Saturn-sized
planets transitting a single sun-like star. The same system might contain a third
world - a hot 'super-Earth' one and a half times the size of Earth. Researchers
announced the results today at a NASA press conference.
Dateline - 22 August 2010: Fireball on Jupiter
An amateur astronomer in Japan has video-recorded a
fireball on Jupiter. This marks the third time in only 13 months that amateur
astronomers have detected signs of something hitting the giant planet. Will the
latest impact leave behind a visible cloud of debris? Click
for images and updates.
Dateline - 20 August 2010: Spectacular aurorae seen from the
International Space Station
With solar activity on the rise, August 2010 has been a
good month for aurorae. There have been sightings of Northern Lights as far
south as Wisconsin and Iowa in the United States, and some fine displays of
Southern Lights over Antarctica. Some of the best pictures so far have come from
Earth orbit, where astronauts have a front-row seat for geomagnetic storms.
for the latest images from the International Space Station.
Dateline - 19 August 2010: NASA spacecraft will arrive at asteroid
Vesta in July next year
NASA's Dawn spacecraft is now less than a year away
from its arrival at the asteroid Vesta. Only the second-largest asteroid
after Ceres, it is the brightest. Found in 1807 by Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers, it
was the fourth asteroid or SSSB (small solar system body) to be discovered. It
is slightly oval in shape, about 550 km X 462 km.
Dateline - 16 August 2010: Japanese spacecraft nears Venus
A Japanese spacecraft named Akatsuki is approaching
Venus on a mission that planetary scientists say could end up teaching us a
great deal about our own planet Earth.
Dateline - 8 August 2010: Solar blast just misses Earth
Yesterday, Saturday, August 7, magnetic fields around
sunspot 1093 erupted. NASA spacecraft and many amateur astronomers
photographed the blast, which produced a strong M1-class solar flare and hurled
a coronal mass ejection (CME) into space - apparently just missing the Sun-Earth
line. The explosion also made whooshing sounds in the loudspeakers of some
for movies and audio recordings
of this latest solar event.
Dateline - 2 August 2010: Complex global eruption on the Sun
During the early hours of August 1st, NASA's Solar Dynamics
Observatory recorded a complex global disturbance on the Earth-facing side of
the Sun. Most of the Sun's northern hemisphere was involved in the event, which
included a long-duration C3-class solar flare, a 'solar tsunami', and a massive
filament eruption. As a result of these blasts, a coronal mass ejection (CME) is
heading toward Earth. High-latitude geomagnetic storms and auroras are possible
when the cloud arrives a few days hence. Click
for movies and updates.
Dateline - 30 July 2010: Have we heard the last from Spirit ?
NASA is hoping for a 'miracle from Mars' as mission
controllers wait to hear from Spirit. The rover is trying to survive its
toughest winter yet, and may never phone home again.
Dateline - 12 July 2010: Mysterious holes on the Moon
Newly-discovered pits on the Moon could be entrances to a geologic
wonderland of underground caves and tunnels. Researchers discuss the
possibilities in today's
story. Note: similar caves have been
photographed on Mars, and are shown below.
Dateline - 18 June 2010: New Horizons spacecraft is now past
the half-way point to Pluto
Halfway to Pluto, NASA's New Horizons probe has woken
up in 'exotic territory.' Mission controllers are taking the opportunity to give
the spacecraft a thorough system's check in preparation for its Pluto flyby in
2015. On board are some of the ashes (about 30 grams) of Clyde W. Tombaugh, the
discoverer of Pluto in 1930, who died in 1997 aged 90. Tombaugh also discovered
about 800 asteroids. Also on board with other experiments is a Student Dust
Counter named Venetia, after the girl who named Pluto, Venetia Burney
Phair. New Horizons was launched on January 19, 2006, and is at present
well beyond Saturn's orbit and nearing that of Uranus, which it will pass on
March 18, 2011. It will cross Neptune's orbit on August 24, 2014 and will flyby
Pluto, Charon, Hydra and Nix on July 14, 2015.
Dateline - 16 June 2010: No trace of damage to Jupiter
Even the Hubble Space Telescope cannot find any debris where a
meteoroid apparently hit Jupiter on June 4 (see announcement below). Today,
researchers released new HST images of the impact site, which show nothing but
uninterrupted clouds. The non-detection is consistent with a relatively small
asteroid or comet fragment making a shallow strike in Jupiter's high atmosphere.
Links to photos and more information may be found
Dateline - 16 June 2010: Noctilucent clouds seen in Europe
Observers in Europe are reporting brightening displays of
noctilucent clouds (NLCs). That's to be expected. Late spring and early summer
often bring the strongest displays of these electric-blue clouds wafting across
the top of Earth's atmosphere. Click
here for photos, observing tips, and a possible connection
between NLCs and sunspots.
Dateline - 16 June 2010: Ice spirals on Mars explained
For 40 years researchers have puzzled over a strange pattern
of ice spirals and chasms around the Martian north pole. New data from NASA's
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have solved the mystery.
Dateline - 8 June 2010: New Comet McNaught
A new comet is swinging through the inner solar system, and
it is brightening rapidly as it approaches Earth for a 160 million kilometre
close encounter in mid-June. Comet McNaught (C/2009 R1) has a vivid green head
and a long wispy tail that look great through small telescopes. By the end of
the month it could be visible to the naked eye, perhaps as bright as second
magnitude. Because this is the comet's first visit to the inner solar system,
predictions of future brightness are necessarily uncertain; amateur astronomers
should be alert for the unexpected.
It will be a difficult object for observers in the southern hemisphere.
Comet McNaught is currently near the border of Andromeda and Perseus and heading
east-north-east. It is curving to the east, and will pass the star Capella on
June 22. The comet will swing round the Sun towards the end of June, and then
head rapidly through Gemini, passing the star Pollux on July 8. It will move
across the celestial equator into the southern sky at the end of July, in the
constellation Hydra, but will be fading fast, probably as faint as eighth
information, including sky charts and photographs.
Dateline - 4 June 2010: New impact on Jupiter this morning
Amateur astronomers Anthony Wesley of Australia and
Christopher Go of the Philippines have independently observed and photographed
an impact event on Jupiter. The strike occurred at 6:31 am this morning and
produced a bright flash of light in the giant planet's cloudtops. Anthony Wesley
captured the flash as a still image and Christopher Go recorded the impact on
story, photograph and video
Dateline - 3 June 2010: Old Soviet Moon rover found
A Soviet robot lost on the dusty plains of the Moon for the
past 40 years has been found again, and it is returning surprisingly strong
laser pulses to Earth. Researchers plan to use the aged robot to help them
measure the Moon's orbit and test theories of gravity. Full
Dateline - 25 May 2010: International Space Station
The next evening sighting of the International Space Station
(ISS) from Nambour will be on the evening of Sunday, May 30. Look just above the
west-north-western horizon, near Venus, at 6:45 pm. It will reach a maximum
elevation of 30 degrees at 6:47 pm. Shining at magnitude -2.3, it will be
fainter than Venus but brighter than any star. Moving very fast, it will only be
visible for a few minutes. Flyby
predictions and more information may be found
Dateline - 25 May 2010: X-37B space
Amateur satellite watchers have spotted a US Air Force space
plane similar in appearance to NASA's space shuttle circling Earth in a
heretofore secret orbit. Known as the X-37B, it can be seen in the night
sky shining about as brightly as the fifth (faintest) star of the Southern
Cross. It will be visible
from Nambour on the morning of Saturday, May 29, but at magnitude 3.7 will be
rather dim, and may be lost in the light of dawn. Look north-north-west at 6:08
am, and it will reach a maximum elevation of 31 degrees as it heads east. Flyby
predictions may be found
and more information may be found
Dateline - 23 May 2010: ISS and Space Shuttle transit the Sun
Yesterday in Switzerland, Thierry Legault photographed the
International Space Station and Space Shuttle Atlantis passing directly
in front of the sun, not far from new sunspot 1072. The veteran
astrophotographer calls the image his "best ever of a solar transit," and indeed
the silhouette of the docked spaceships backlit by solar fire is a must see.
See it here on the May 23 edition of
Dateline - 23 May 2010: Double flyby alert
The Space Shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to undock from
the ISS on Monday, May 24, at 1:22 am AEST, setting the stage for double flybys
over many towns and cities around the world. Need a flyby prediction?
Nambour flybys: Tuesday,
May 25: Look south, 45 degrees above the horizon, at 5:10 am.
Wednesday, May 26: Look west, 28 degrees above the horizon, at 5:34 am. In each
case the ISS will be brighter than anything else in the sky at that time.
Dateline - 21 May 2010: News from Mars rovers
This just in from the Red Planet: Mars rover Opportunity
has set a longevity record as it attempts a marathon trek across dangerous
terrain. Meanwhile, Spirit is in peril from the advancing Martian winter.
Despite their troubles, both rovers remain in the hunt for new discoveries.
Dateline - 20 May 2010: Jupiter loses one of its two main dark belts
In a surprising development that has transformed the
appearance of the solar system's largest planet, Jupiter's South Equatorial Belt has completely disappeared.
The discovery was made by Australian astrophotographer Anthony Wesley of
Dateline - 9 May 2010: Powerful solar flares
Last weekend, magnetic fields around sunspot 1069 became
unstable and erupted over and over again. On May 8 alone, the active region
produced more than half a dozen flares. High-resolution movies from NASA's
Solar Dynamics Observatory show that even the 'minor' eruptions were
jaw-dropping spectacles. See them
Dateline - 3 May 2010: Powerful geomagnetic storm hits Earth
A high-speed solar wind stream hit Earth's magnetic field
last night (May 2-3), sparking a geomagnetic storm that lasted more than 15
hours. In Scandinavia, the Northern Lights were so bright they could be seen
through the glow of the midnight sun. Red aurorae spilled across the Canadian
border and were spotted in several US states. Details and images are featured
Dateline - 29 April 2010: Humanoid robot going to the
International Space Station
NASA is making a to-do list for the space station's new
humanoid robot. Nicknamed R2, the mechanical crew member's chores could range
from the most delicate science experiments to old-fashioned house cleaning.
R2 is due to travel to the ISS next September, aboard the space shuttle
R2 has already got his own
Dateline - 27 April 2010: Spectacular explosions on the Sun
NASA's new 'Hubble for the Sun' has just observed one of the
most dramatic eruptions in years. Movies ten times better than HDTV show
billions of tons of magnetized plasma blasted into space while debris from the
explosion rains back onto the sun's surface. Click
the movies (the files are very large... 25 MB).
Dateline - 23 April 2010: The USA launches its new pilotless spaceplane
The United States Air Force successfully conducted the first launch of its new
unmanned X-37B spaceplane, known as OTV-1 (Orbital Test Vehicle - 1) on April
22. Carried into Earth orbit on an Atlas V 501 rocket, most
of the mission parameters for the OTV-1 flight have not been disclosed,
but appear to be of a military nature.
The vehicle is capable of being in orbit for up to 270 days. The Air Force
stated the mission time will depend on progress of the craft's experiments
during orbit. Once its mission is complete, the X-37B will be deorbited and will land on a runway at
Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. Edwards Air Force Base will be used if
Vandenberg is unavailable. It will be the second reusable
spacecraft to perform an automated landing after returning from orbit, the first
being the Russian Buran spacecraft in 1988.
Dateline - 21 April 2010: New images of the Sun
At a press conference today, researchers unveiled First Light
images from the Solar Dynamics Observatory, NASA's 'Hubble for the Sun'. There
are huge erupting prominences, crackling solar flares, and gigantic shock waves
shown with a clarity ten times better than HDTV. The images must be seen to be
The files are very large.
Dateline - 21 April 2010: Lyrid meteor shower on April 23
The Lyrid meteor shower peaks on April 23 when Earth passes
through a stream of debris from Comet Thatcher (C/1861 G1). The best time to
look is during the hours before dawn on Friday morning. Forecasters expect as
many as 20 meteors per hour.
Dateline - 18 April 2010: The International Space Station
and Hubble Space Telescope both visible from Nambour on April 22
During the early evening of Thursday, April 22, the
International Space Station
will pass over Nambour. The spacecraft will come into view above the
horizon at about 6:25 pm, just as it is getting dark. The Sun will have been set
for nearly an hour. Heading towards the north-east, the ISS will cross the meridian
(the north-south line across the sky) at 6:27 pm. At that point it will be
51 degrees above the southern horizon. Soon after, it will pass between the
Southern Cross and the False Cross.
The ISS space vehicle will be as bright as
magnitude -3.4, brighter than any other sky object apart from the half-Moon, and
nearly as bright as Venus. As it heads towards the north-eastern horizon, it
will pass into the Earth's shadow and fade from sight.
25 minutes after the ISS fades, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST)
will come over the western horizon heading east. It will cross the meridian at
6:58 pm, at an altitude of 78 degrees (almost overhead). Being much smaller than
the ISS, the HST is only one fiftieth as bright. When overhead it shines at
magnitude 2.1 (nearly as bright as the top star of the Southern Cross), so will
be easily seen with the unaided eye if the sky is clear, even with the presence
of the bright half-Moon.
Dateline - 16 April 2010: Unusual markings on Pluto
Hubble images of Pluto have researchers scratching their
heads and wondering, what's happening on the dwarf planet? Molasses-coloured
markings are just one of the mysteries explored in today's
Dateline - 15 April 2010: Mid-Western fireball
A brilliant fireball streaked across the USA on the evening of April 14,
startling observers in Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and surrounding states. Experts
say it was a small asteroid, about a metre wide, that exploded in mid-air with
an energy equivalent to some 20 tonnes of TNT. National Weather Service radars
detected the fireball's debris trail, resulting in maps that could help guide
meteorite hunters to fragments on the ground. Pictures and more information may
but go to the archive dated April 15.
Dateline - 15 April 2010: Volcanic sunsets
A cloud of ash from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano is
drifting across Europe this week and causing sunsets of surpassing beauty.
Europeans are encouraged to look west at the end of the day. Bonus: If you don't
live in Europe, look west anyway. Venus, Mercury and the crescent Moon are
beaming through the twilight for all to see. Check
here for pictures and sky maps.
Dateline - 10 April 2010: The Sun swallows up a comet
This morning, the sun had a comet for breakfast. The icy
visitor from the outer solar system appeared with little warning on April 9 and
plunged into the sun during the early hours of April 10th. One comet went in,
none came out. Click
here to see a death plunge movie from the
Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.
Dateline - 9 April 2010: Solar Wind storm is over
The first major solar wind storm of the new solar cycle has
come to an end. The event, which lasted from April 4 to April 8, produced
aurorae over both poles and many points in between. Highlights included Northern
Lights over an active volcano in Iceland, green skies in Minnesota, and a
kaleidoscopic display of Southern Lights over Antarctica. Start browsing the
updated aurora gallery
Dateline - 6 April 2010: Amazing space shuttle launch
Yesterday morning, space shuttle Discovery blasted off
from Cape Canaveral at the crack of dawn. Long-time shuttle watchers say it was
one of the most remarkable launches of the 30 year program. Discovery
resembled a comet arcing across the sky as sunrise rays played across the ship's
icy exhaust, creating an artificial noctilucent cloud. Images and eyewitness
accounts are featured on today's edition of
Dateline - 6 April 2010: Geomagnetic stormT
A sharp gust of solar wind hit Earth's magnetosphere today,
April 5th, at approximately 0800 UT and sparked the strongest geomagnetic storm
of the year. The event registered 7 on the 0-to-9 Kindex scale of magnetic
disturbances. Although the storm is subsiding now, it is not over; high-latitude
sky watchers should remain alert for aurorae. Latest images may be found
Dateline - 12 March 2010: New comet approaching the Sun
Today, a newly discovered comet is plunging toward the sun
for a close encounter it probably will not survive. The comet is rapidly
vaporizing and appears very bright in coronagraph images from the Solar and
Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). Click
for movies of the ongoing encounter and more information about the comet.
Dateline - 1 March 2010: Will the world end on December
Worried about the stories getting around about the Mayan calendar predicting the
end of the world soon? The technical term for such stories is 'baloney'. Read
what reputable NASA scientists have to say
Dateline - 24 February 2010: Bogged Mars rover Spirit has a
NASA's venerable Mars rover Spirit is starting a second career as an
explorer of the Martian core - but first it must survive the perilous Martian
Dateline - 8 February 2010: Large sunspot appears
The sudden emergence of big sunspot 1045 over the weekend has caused a
sharp increase in solar activity. The active region has produced three M-class
and almost a dozen C-class solar flares since it appeared on Saturday. The
strongest blast, an M6-class eruption on February 7, may have hurled a coronal
mass ejection toward Earth. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for
auroras in the nights ahead as a result of this activity. Also, ham radio
operators are picking up strong solar radio bursts using shortwave receivers.
Sample sounds and images may be found
Dateline - 6 February 2010: Last night launch of the Space Shuttle
On Sunday evening, February 7, at 7:39 pm AEST (8:39 pm
AEDT), space shuttle Endeavour is scheduled lift off from Kennedy
Space Centre on a 13-day mission to the International Space Station.
There are only five missions left before NASA ends the shuttle program, and this
will be the last one to launch at night. Click
for links to blogs and live video from NASA TV.
Dateline - 2 February 2010: Head-on collision between two asteroids
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has observed a
mysterious X-shaped debris pattern and trailing streamers of dust that suggest a
head-on collision between two asteroids.
Dateline - 29 January 2010: Renowned astronomer Dr Geoffrey Burbidge
dies in San Diego at 84
With his wife Margaret, Dr Burbidge is credited with having a profound influence
in the development of modern astrophysics and cosmology, the metaphysical study
of the origin and nature of the universe. In the 1950s he and his wife were
among the astronomers breaking new ground in the field of creation of elements (nucleosynthesis)
inside stars. He also had a reputation as a
contrarian for his stance rejecting the big-bang theory, which states that the
universe originated from a single point of infinite energy that exploded in a
fireball of creation.
Dateline - 28 January 2010: Tomorrow night's Full Moon is the
biggest of the year, plus Mars
Tomorrow night's full Moon is the biggest and
brightest full Moon of the year. It's a 'perigee Moon', as much as 14% wider and
30% brighter than other full Moons you'll see later in 2010. But that's not all.
Mars is having a close encounter with Earth, and tomorrow night, January 30, it
will join the Moon for an all-night-long conjunction. Mars will be about seven
degrees to the left of the Moon in the evening. Don't miss it! Sky maps
and images may be found here .
Dateline - 28 January 2010: Space Shuttle Endeavour launches
on February 7
NASA is preparing to launch space shuttle Endeavour on
February 7. It's the last night launch of the shuttle program and it kicks off a
13-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS). You can
follow the ISS and Endeavour as they streak across
the night sky using Spaceweather's new Satellite Flybys app for the iPhone or
iPod Touch. For details, click
Dateline - 26 January 2010: Mars rover Spirit is hopelessly bogged
and can no longer be moved
NASA announced today that Spirit cannot be freed from its Martian sandtrap. Now the rover will begin a second career as a stationary science
Dateline - 26 January 2010: Mars is at its closest to Earth until
This week Earth and Mars are having a close encounter. On January 27, the
red planet will be only 99 million kilometres away and will look bigger through
a telescope than at any time between 2008 and 2014.
Dateline - 21 January 2010: New sun-grazing comet
NASA's STEREO-A spacecraft has discovered another
bright sun-grazing comet. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) has a
good view of the comet's death plunge, which is happening today. Click here
for movies and updates.
Dateline - 21 January 2010: Aurora Borealis pictures
A solar wind stream hit Earth on January 20 sparking the first
geomagnetic storm of the year and an intense display of polar aurorae. Images
from around the Arctic Circle may be found
Dateline - 15 January 2010: Giant ribbon at the edge of the Solar
Last year, when NASA's IBEX (Interstellar Boundary
Explorer) spacecraft discovered a giant ribbon at the edge of the solar
system, researchers were mystified. They called it a 'shocking result' and
puzzled over its origin. Now the mystery may have been solved.
Dateline - 14 January 2010: NASA's James Webb Space Telescope
will join the search for exoplanets
NASA's next great observatory, the James Webb Space
Telescope, is designed to study stars and galaxies. With a mirror made
up of 18 hexagonal segments totalling a collecting area of 25 square metres, the
telescope will work at infrared wavelengths. It is due to be launched in 2014. Astronomers are
beginning to realise, however, that Webb will make a great planet
originally conceived to search for the first galaxies and address the big
cosmological questions associated with them, but we now know it can contribute
powerfully to the planet hunt," says Mark Clampin of NASA's Goddard Space Flight
Centre. "Exoplanets are tremendously exciting. The field is changing literally
by the day. I gave a talk on exoplanets the other day, and in the time between
writing and delivering the speech, astronomers announced 30 new planets!"
Dateline - 8 January 2010: NASA's new SOFIA telescope
Most astronomers wouldn't dream of opening their
observatory's doors in 160 kph winds. Yet NASA's new SOFIA telescope
Observatory For Infrared Astronomy) recently flew in an airplane at 420 kph with doors wide open. The successful
test is an important step forward for infrared astronomy.
Dateline - 6 January 2010: Hubble space telescope photographs
oldest galaxies yet
The refurbished Hubble Space Telescope has set a new
distance record by discovering the oldest galaxies ever
seen, dating back 13 billion years, or 600-800 million years
after the Big Bang. The never-seen-before galaxies are keys to interpreting the
development of the first stars and the formation of the first
galaxies that later evolved into the elliptical galaxies like
our own Milky Way that now populate the universe.The age and masses of the galaxies were calculated by
combining new data from Hubble (the first space telescope was
refurbished by a shuttle mission last May) and images from NASA's
Spitzer Space Telescope. The galaxies are small, only one-hundredth the size of the Milky Way.
two links contributed by Gary Taylor.
Dateline - 4 January 2010: Kepler space telescope finds its first
NASA's Kepler space telescope, designed to find Earth-size
planets in the habitable zone of sun-like stars, has discovered its first five
Dateline - 2 January 2010: Sun-grazing comet
Today, a bright comet is approaching the sun for a perilous close
encounter, and it probably will not survive. The comet was discovered by an
amateur astronomer monitoring images from NASA's STEREO-A spacecraft. The
Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) has a good view of the comet's
approach and images are being posted
Dateline - 31 December 2009: Sunspot surge
2009 is ending with a flurry of sunspots. The month of
December has had more 'spotted days' than any previous month of the year by a
significant margin, and all of the month's sunspot groups have been members of
new Solar Cycle 24. Could this herald an end to the deepest solar minimum in
nearly a century? That remains to be seen. Sunspot counts and trends are shown
but ensure the date is set to 31 December.
Dateline - 31 December 2009: Make your iPhone or iPod into a
Turn your iPhone or iPod Touch into a field-tested satellite
to find out how.
Dateline - 31 December 2009: Blue Moon eclipse
The second Full Moon for December will occur at 19:13 hrs Universal Time on
December 31. This will therefore be a 'Blue Moon' for everyone west of Israel.
In Queensland, the Full Moon will not occur until 5:13 hours on January 1, 2010,
so it won't be 'blue' for us. In America, Europe and Africa, for the first time in almost 20 years
there's going to be a 'Blue Moon' on New Year's Eve. In Europe, sky watchers
will witness an even rarer event - an eclipse of a Blue Moon on New Year's Eve.
What are the odds? Probabilities and observing tips may be found
In Australia, we will have a Full Moon on January 1 and another on January 30.
With two Full Moons in the same month, the second one will be 'blue'. It is
important to know that the normal colour of the Moon will not change. The lunar
eclipse of January 1 will not be visible from Nambour.
12 December 2009: Geminid meteor swarm approaching
This weekend, Earth will pass through a stream of debris from
extinct comet 3200 Phaethon, source of the annual Geminid meteor shower.
Forecasters expect more than 100 meteors per hour to fly out of the
constellation Gemini when the shower peaks on December 13 and 14. For most
observers, the best time to look will be from 10 pm local time on Sunday night
to dawn on Monday morning. Click
for photos, a sky map, and live audio from a meteor radar.
11 December 2009: New climate change website comes online
NASA reports that researchers attending the United Nations
Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen have unveiled a unique web site that
gathers and organizes climate data for decision makers, professional scientists
and lay people. It is available
9 December 2009: Stunning spiral light show over Norway
This morning in arctic Norway, onlookers were stunned when a gigantic
luminous spiral formed in the northern sky. Veteran observers accustomed to the
appearance of Northern Lights say they have never seen anything like it. It was
neither a meteor nor any known form of atmospheric optics. Rumours that the
spiral was caused by the botched launch of a Russian rocket have not yet been
for images and eyewitness reports of this mysterious apparition.
8 December 2009: Geminid meteor shower due next week
The annual Geminid meteor shower has been intensifying, and
researchers say 2009 could be the best year yet. This year's display peaks on
December 13 to 15 (next Sunday to Tuesday).
2 December 2009: Mars rover Spirit still bogged in sand, but still
While stuck in a sandtrap, Mars rover Spirit has made
a discovery one researcher calls "supremely interesting."
26 November 2009: Meteor explodes over Johannesburg, South Africa
Last night a meteor exploded in a blaze of colour, and was
filmed by a traffic control camera. See the amazing video
This link contributed by Gary Taylor.
24 November 2009: Waves on the Sun
Data from NASA's STEREO
Terrestrial Relations Observatory) spacecraft have confirmed the
stunning reality of monster waves on the sun known as 'solar tsunamis.'
18 November 2009: Fireball over the USA
As forecasters predicted, the Leonid meteor shower peaked
during the early hours of November 18, favouring sky watchers in Asia with an
outburst of 100+ meteors per hour. Just as the outburst was dying down, an even
bigger event took place over the western USA. Something hit Earth's atmosphere
and exploded with an energy equivalent of 0.5 to 1 kiloton of TNT. Witnesses in
Colorado, Utah, Idaho and elsewhere say the fireball "turned night into day" and
"shook the ground" when it exploded just after midnight Mountain Standard Time.
Researchers who are analyzing infrasound recordings of the blast say the
fireball was not a Leonid. It was probably a small asteroid, now scattered in
fragments across the countryside. Efforts are underway to measure the trajectory
of the asteroid and guide meteorite recovery efforts.
16 November 2009: Leonid meteor shower due mid-week
The Leonid meteor shower peaks on Wednesday morning, November
18, with a new Moon providing ideally-dark viewing conditions. Forecasters
expect a relatively mild display (20 to 30 meteors per hour) over North America
followed by a much stronger outburst (100 to 300 per hour) over Australia and
Asia. No matter where you live in Australia, the best time to look is from 2 am
to 4 am on Wednesday morning.
13 November 2009: The Moon is not waterless after all
The argument that the Moon is a dry, desolate place no longer
holds water. At a press conference today, researchers revealed data from NASA's
LCROSS mission indicating that water exists in a permanently shadowed
crater near the lunar South Pole. See articles below, datelined 8 October
2009 and 17 October 2009.
10 November 2009: A possible outburst of the Leonid meteor shower arrives next
The 2009 Leonid meteor shower peaks at 3:30 am on November 18. Although
predictions vary between 3 and 30 meteors per hour, an outburst of many more than that
is a possibility. NASA says that between 200 and 300 per hour may be seen over
Australia and East Asia. There will be no moonlight to interfere with observations,
so this could be one of the best meteor showers in years.
3 November 2009: How the International Space Station has been built
for an animation showing how the International Space Station has been
assembled over the years since 1998. It is now bigger than a Boeing 767.
30 October 2009: Next Mars Rover
NASA's next Mars rover, a super-capable robot named 'Curiosity',
will push Mars exploration to a new level.
28 October 2009: Small asteroid explodes over Indonesia
A 10 metre asteroid exploded over Indonesia with the force of three Hiroshima
bombs - and no one on Earth knew it was coming. The
New Scientist website reports the
dramatic explosion over South Sulawesi, Indonesia, on October 8, and underscores
how blind humanity is to the danger of giant space rocks.
NASA estimated the explosion was the equivalent to 50 000 tons of TNT, making it
one of the largest asteroid explosions ever observed. However, this time we were
lucky - the blast caused no damage on the ground because it occurred at high
altitude, 15 to 20 km above Earth's surface. While the explosion was heard by
witnesses in Indonesia and picked up by international nuclear explosion
detectors, the asteroid only became visible after it exploded.
23 October 2009: NASA mission to study the Moon's tenuous atmosphere
- before it's too late
The Surveyor 7 spacecraft that landed on the Moon in January 1968
took photographs showing that the Moon had a very thin 'atmosphere' (more
properly termed an 'exosphere') of electrostatically charged particles that
became active and rose above the surface in sunlight and fell to the ground in
the lunar night. Apollo astronauts confirmed this phenomenon. Now NASA
scientists are building a probe to be called
Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) to investigate this
process, and which chemicals are most active.
19 October 2009: Orionid meteor shower peaks tomorrow and Thursday
Caused by debris from Halley's Comet, the 2009 Orionid meteor
shower peaks on Wednesday, October 21 and Thursday, October 22, and forecasters say it could be an
unusually good show. "Earth
is passing through a stream of debris from Halley's Comet, the source of the
Orionids," says Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. "Flakes of
comet dust hitting the atmosphere should give us dozens of meteors per hour."
17 October 2009: LCROSS lunar impact plume photograph
NASA has just released pictures of
infrared flashes and a visible plume of debris produced by a Centaur booster
rocket hitting the Moon on October 9. The images confirm that the
Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) experiment
was a success despite the fact that the impacts were visually unimpressive from
images of the plume and commentary from mission scientists.
15 October 2009: Giant ribbon of invisible particles found at the
edge of the Solar System
NASA's IBEX (Interstellar Boundary Explorer) spacecraft has discovered a vast, glowing ribbon at the edge of
the solar system. One mission scientist calls the discovery 'shocking' and says
theorists are 'working like crazy' to explain the finding.
15 October 2009: Lunar lander control jets using compressed air ?
How do you fly on a world with no atmosphere? Wings won't
work and neither will propellers. How about compressed air? NASA is perfecting
the art of 'airless flying' using a new prototype lunar lander at the Marshall Space
8 October 2009: Tonight's Lunar Impact update
NASA's LCROSS spacecraft and its Centaur
booster rocket are on course for an impact in crater Cabeus near the Moon's
south pole tonight. The Centaur will strike first on 9 October at 9:31 pm AEST,
followed by the LCROSS mothership at 9:35:45 pm AEST. The spectacular
double-impact, designed to excavate water frozen in the crater's shadowy depths,15oct_iibex15oct_ibex
will be broadcast live on
The Moon will be below the horizon for amateur astronomers in Australia.
7 October 2009: New, giant (but faint) ring found around Saturn
Just when you thought every big thing in the Solar System had
already been discovered, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has found an
extraordinary new supersized ring around Saturn.
5 October 2009: LCROSS satellite will impact the Moon this
On Friday night, 9 October, you can watch a pair of
spacecraft crash into the Moon. The purposeful impacts are the climax of NASA's
LCROSS mission to unearth signs of water in lunar soil. Although the
waning gibbous Moon will be below the horizon for Australian observers, the
impact can be watched on NASA TV
29 September 2009: Record-high levels of cosmic rays hitting Earth
NASA spacecraft are measuring record-high levels of cosmic
rays - a side-effect of the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century. The
cosmic ray storm appears to be intensifying, say researchers, and the peak may
be yet to come.
26 September 2009: Underground ice on Mars revealed
Fresh meteorite impacts are exposing underground ice on Mars.
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is beaming back must-see photos of the
process at work.
24 September 2009: NASA scientists discover water molecules on the
Using instruments on three separate spacecraft, scientists
have discovered water molecules in the polar regions of the Moon.
23 September 2009: NASA spacecraft due to photograph Mercury next
NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft is set to make its third
and final flyby of the planet Mercury on 29 September. The encounter is expected
to produce hundreds of images of previously unseen terrain and confirm the
strange elliptical shape of Mercury's equator.
23 September 2009: Spring Equinox occurs today
Today, 23 September, the Sun crossed the celestial equator at
7:18 am AEST. This event marks the beginning of Spring in the southern
hemisphere (except in Australia, where Spring is reckoned to begin on September
1), and Autumn in the northern hemisphere. It's also the beginning of the aurora
season around the poles.
22 September 2009: New large sunspots appear
In a year when the sun has been utterly blank 80% of the
time, the sudden emergence of two large sunspots in a single day is a noteworthy
event. Today is such a day. NASA satellites and amateur astronomers are
monitoring a pair of growing sunspots, both apparently members of long-overdue
Solar Cycle 24. The emergence of these active regions is not enough to end the
deepest solar minimum in nearly a hundred years, but they do represent a
significant uptick in solar activity.
15 September 2009: Finding dark asteroids that could collide with
NASA is set to launch a sensitive new infrared telescope to seek out sneaky
things in the night sky - among them, dark asteroids that could pose a threat to
Earth (there were two near misses last March).
11 September 2009: LCROSS satellite will impact the Moon in four
In search of water, NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS)
is on a collision course with the Moon. The impact will occur on the evening of
9 October next, at 10:30 pm AEST. The site chosen for the impact is the small crater Cabeus
A, near the lunar south pole.
will search for ice by plunging its spent upper-stage Centaur rocket into the
permanent shadows of Cabeus A, where water might be trapped in frozen form. The
LCROSS satellite will then fly into the plume of debris kicked up by the
impact and measure the properties of the plume before it also collides
with the lunar surface. Observing from Nambour, the waning gibbous Moon
at the time of impact will be below the north-eastern horizon, not rising until
The LCROSS mission has been dedicated to the memory of Walter Cronkite,
the legendary CBS News anchor man, who provided coverage of NASA's missions from
the beginning of America's manned space program to the age of the space shuttle.
9 September 2009: Hubble Space Telescope is more powerful than ever
after an extreme makeover
Today, astronomers declared the Hubble Space Telescope a fully rejuvenated
observatory with the release of spectacular new images and data from four of its
six operating science instruments.
Full story and new images
31 August 2009: What is 'magnetic reconnection', and why does it
cause massive explosions on the Sun ?
NASA is planning a daring new mission to investigate the Universe's favourite
way of making things explode. Unlocking the secrets of 'magnetic reconnection'
could help alleviate the energy crisis on Earth.
19 August 2009: Chandra Orbiting X-Ray Observatory is 10 years old
Astronomers are celebrating 10 years of discovery by NASA's Chandra X-ray
highlights some of Chandra's most surprising, violent and beautiful images of
the high-energy Universe.
19 August 2009: Amazing Jupiter moon movie
Christopher Go, an amateur astronomer in the Philippines
using a Celestron C11 on an Astro-Physics mount, has photographed one of
Jupiter's moons, Io, casting its circular shadow across another, Ganymede. The
movie he made of this rare event is must-see cinema for astronomers. It's
(set the date at right to August 19, 2009).
6 August 2009: New Kepler Space Telescope examines exosolar planet
NASA's new planet-hunting Kepler space telescope has
detected the changing phases and atmosphere of a planet a thousand light years
4 August 2009: Possible Perseid meteor swarm outburst
This year's Perseid meteor shower could be even better than usual. According to
NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office, a filament of comet dust has drifted across
Earth's path and when Earth passes through it, sometime between 6 pm and 7 pm
AEST on August 12, the Perseid meteor rate could surge to twice its normal
for details and observing tips.
3 August 2009: What hit Jupiter ?
Two weeks after something slammed into Jupiter, creating a cloud of debris that
is still easy to see through backyard telescopes, researchers are wondering ...
what was the impactor?
21 July 2009: Longest solar eclipse of the 21st century is about to
The eclipse starts just hours from now at approximately 11 am
Australian Eastern Standard Time on Wednesday, 22 July. The path of totality
crosses many major cities in India and China, setting the stage for possibly the
most widely observed eclipse in history. Photos fr