(including reports © NASA and © Spaceweather.com)

News prior to January 1, 2018


Note:  some links on this page will have expired, as the news is no longer topical.  Expired links from Spaceweather.com can be accessed through their Archives on the right side of their home page. Simply enter the month, day and year as shown in the Dateline of the required item .



Dateline -  30 December 2017 -   Views of the Earth from NASA spacecraft:

As we look back at 2017, see how cameras on NASA spacecraft have looked back at our home planet, treating us to intriguing and inspiring perspectives from various places in space.  Watch the ScienceCast Video


Dateline -  17 December 2017 -   Geomagnetic storm in progress:

A G1-class geomagnetic storm is underway on December 17 as Earth moves into a stream of solar wind. The gaseous material is flowing faster than 600 km/s from a hole in the Sun's atmosphere. G1-class storms are relatively minor and have little effect on power grids and satellites. However, they can confuse migratory animals that navigate using magnetism at high latitudes and, moreover, may spark bright aurorae around the Arctic Circle. Tonight's nearly new Moon will provide a dark backdrop for Northern Lights. Visit  Spaceweather for more information and updates.


Dateline -  11 December 2017 -   A 'rock comet' is approaching Earth this weekend:

You've heard of comets. But have you ever heard of a rock comet? They exist, and a big one is approaching Earth this week. 3200 Phaethon will fly past our planet on Sunday, December 17, only 10 million kilometres away. Measuring some 5 km in diameter, it is large enough for amateur astronomers to photograph through backyard telescopes. Moreover, this strange object is the parent of the annual Geminid meteor shower, which is also coming this week. Sky watchers can see dozens of Geminids per hour on December 14 and 15 as gravelly bits of the rock comet disintegrate in Earth's upper atmosphere. Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  to find out how to observe the Geminids and their progenitor in the nights ahead.


Dateline -  20 November 2017 -   Interstellar asteroid "like nothing ever seen":

Last month, telescopes around the world rushed to observe an asteroid from interstellar space as it raced through our Solar System. Some of the data from those observations was published in today's edition of Nature, and they reveal an object like no one has ever seen before. The deep-space asteroid, named 'Oumuamua', is tinged dark red, made of dense rock or metal, and shaped roughly like a giant cigar at least 400 metres long. Get the full story on today's edition of  Spaceweather .


Dateline -  17 November 2017 -   Meteor explodes over the Arctic

On the evening of November 16, a meteoroid ripped through the atmosphere over the Arctic Circle and exploded. The resulting fireball wiped out the aurora borealis, cast shadows, and turned the night sky blue.  Visit  Spaceweather  to see a movie of the explosion, captured accidentally by an automated aurora skycam in northern Finland.


Dateline -  17 November 2017 -   Incoming solar wind

Today, a hole in the Sun's atmosphere is facing Earth. The emerging stream of solar wind could reach our planet as early as November 19, with G1-class geomagnetic storms possible on November 20.  Visit  Spaceweather  for more.


Dateline -  12 November 2017 -   Venus - Jupiter conjunction

Set your alarm for dawn. On Tuesday morning, November 14, Venus and Jupiter will converge in the pre-dawn sky only 1/3rd of a degree apart. Look low and to the east about 30 minutes before sunrise. If you miss them on Tuesday, try again on Wednesday, November 15. The conjunction will be breaking up, but still a beautiful sight. Visit  Spaceweather  for sky maps and pictures.


Dateline -  23 October 2017 -   Geomagnetic storms predicted  (G2 class)

A large hole has opened in the Sun's atmosphere, and it is discharging a stream of solar wind toward Earth. Estimated time of arrival: October 25. First contact with the gaseous material is expected to produce minor G1-class geomagnetic storms, intensifying to moderately strong G2-class storms on October 26 as the Earth moves deeper into the stream. Arctic sky watchers can expect to witness bright aurorae. The lights could descend to lower latitudes as well, with sightings in northern-tier US states along a line from Maine to Washington. Visit  Spaceweather  for more information and updates.


Dateline -  20 October 2017 -   Meteors from Halley's Comet

Earth is entering a stream of debris from Halley's Comet, source of the annual Orionid meteor shower. Last night, NASA's network of all-sky meteor cameras detected 23 Orionid fireballs over the USA  - a result of comet dust hitting the atmosphere at speeds exceeding 65 km/s (145,000 mph). Forecasters expect the shower to peak on October 21-23 with as many as 25 meteors per hour.  Visit  Spaceweather  for observing tips and sky maps.


Dateline -  10 October 2017 -   Asteroid to buzz Earth this week

Four years ago, a house-sized asteroid tore through the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia, and exploded.  Shock waves shattered windows and knocked down onlookers as fragments of the disintegrating space rock peppered the Ural countryside. This week an asteroid about the same size is approaching Earth. It will not hit our planet, but it's coming very close. On October 12, 2017, the speeding space rock, named '2012 TC4', will skim just above the zone of Earth's geosynchronous communications satellites and briefly become a target for amateur telescopes. Learn more about the flyby on today's edition of  Spaceweather .


Dateline -  8 October 2017 -   Damage caused by Hurricane Maria threatens the Arecibo Radio Telescope with closure

Until eclipsed by the Chinese FAST radio telescope last year, the 305 metre (1000 feet) Arecibo Radio Telescope on the island of Puerto Rico was the largest dish in the world, although at over 50 years old it was showing its age. Damage caused to the radio telescope by the hurricane, while not catastrophic, will take several million dollars to repair. The main problem is that a large portion of a 29-metre long antenna suspended at the focal point above the dish was torn loose and fell into the dish. Destruction of much infrastructure in Puerto Rico, including observatory buildings and residences, is a major problem. The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has had its funding slashed, and needs to divest itself of as many as ten observatories so that it can channel its reduced budget towards newer facilities. Concern has been expressed that the NSF may decide to write off the facility at Arecibo.   News report .


Dateline -  4 October 2017 -   Major aurora event on Mars

Last month, a human astronaut standing on the surface of Mars could have seen something amazing. The night sky of the Red Planet turned green in a global display of Northern Lights. Unfortunately, the same astronaut would have been irradiated by high energy particles from the sun. For three days in mid-September a solar storm enveloped Mars, crossing thresholds of ground-level radiation and auroras that orbiters and rovers had never seen before. Such global events on Mars may be more common than previously thought - a topic explored on today's edition of  Spaceweather .


Dateline -  30 September 2017 -   New Horizons' discoveries keep coming

The probe New Horizons, which so successfully imaged Pluto in a flyby in July 2015, is on its way to new discoveries deep in the Kuiper Belt – a region inhabited by ancient remnants from the dawn of the solar system.     Watch NASA's ScienceCast Video  


Dateline -  28 September 2017 -   Strong geomagnetic storm

Knowing that a solar wind stream was heading for Earth, forecasters predicted a geomagnetic storm last night. However, they didn't predict it would be so strong, a G3-class event. During the peak of this surprising space storm, Northern Lights spilled over the Canadian border into more than half a dozen US states. Visit  Spaceweather  for pictures of the display and updates as the solar wind continues to blow.


Dateline -  21 September 2017 -   Spacecraft buzzes Earth en route to asteroid

NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft was launched on September 8, 2016 on its way to Bennu, a 510-metre diameter asteroid that could threaten our planet in the next century. The spacecraft was placed in an orbit around the Sun, and after a year is back in our vicinity. It is going to fly past Earth on September 22 only 17 202 kilometres away. The daring manoeuvre, called an 'Earth gravity assist', will slingshot the probe towards Bennu. OSIRIS-REx is going to take a closer look at this potentially hazardous space rock and, if all goes as planned, return samples of it to Earth. At closest approach, the spacecraft could become bright enough for advanced amateur astronomers to photograph using backyard telescopes. OSIRIS-REx will pass over Rockhampton heading south-west between 2 and 3 am on September 23. It will descend over Birdsville and Adelaide, and as it passes over the Southern Ocean it will be closer than our geosynchronous weather and communications satellites. It will head over Antarctica and ascend as it turns north up the coast of Chile, turning west to pass over the central Pacific, China and the northern Sahara before going back into space at a higher speed than it had when it arrived.

OSIRIS-REx will reach Bennu in August 2018 and will begin its survey of the asteroid in October of that year. A site for the collection of samples will be selected, and in July 2020 OSIRIS-REx will move into a position to gently touch the surface of Bennu with a robotic arm and sampler head called 'TAGSAM' (Touch-and-go Sample Acquisition Mechanism). The TAGSAM will approach the surface of Bennu at a speed of 10 centimetres per second. Contacting the surface of Bennu for a total of five seconds, the TAGSAM will release a burst of nitrogen gas, causing loose rocks and surface material to be stirred up and directed into a collector in the sampler head. It is hoped that at least 60 grams and possibly up to 2 kilograms of sample will be obtained. If needed, the spacecraft is capable of making up to three sampling attempts. After measuring the mass of the sample, the TAGSAM head will then be stowed in the Sample Return Capsule (SRC) for the journey home.

The window for departing Bennu opens in March 2021. At that time OSIRIS-REx will fire its main engines and leave Bennu with a speed of 1152 kph. This burn will place OSIRIS-REx on a trajectory that intersects the orbit of the Earth in September 2023. Four hours before reaching Earth's atmosphere, OSIRIS-REx will jettison the Sample Return Capsule (SRC), placing it on a trajectory to land on Earth. The spacecraft will then perform a deflection manoeuvre of 63 kph that places the spacecraft in a stable orbit around the Sun. The SRC will hit the top of our atmosphere with a speed of 44 658 kph. The heat shield will absorb over 99% of the initial kinetic energy. After entry the SRC will free fall until it reaches an altitude of 33.5 kilometres, when the drogue parachute will deploy. At an altitude of 3000 metres the main parachute will be released, bringing the capsule in for a soft landing in the Utah desert on September 24, 2023, concluding a seven year journey to Bennu and back.

Observing tips and more information are contained in today's edition of  Spaceweather .


Dateline -  21 September 2017 -   Hubble's contentious Constant

There are two leading ways to measure the universe's rate of expansion, and for fifteen years, they more or less agreed with one another. Not anymore, and that’s a big deal.

            Watch the NASA ScienceCast Video                NASA Science Website            All NASA ScienceCast Videos


Dateline -  14 September 2017 -   Solar wind produces geomagnetic storm

Earth is entering a stream of high-speed solar wind flowing from a hole in the sun's atmosphere. First contact with the stream on September 14 produced a moderately strong (G2-class) geomagnetic storm, ongoing at the time of this alert. If the storm continues, high-latitude sky watchers could see aurorae after local nightfall on September 14/15.  Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for more information and updates. 


Dateline -  12 September 2017 -   Solar flare causes ground level radiation event

Sunday's powerful X8-class solar flare from departing sunspot AR2673 accelerated a swarm of protons toward Earth, producing a strong solar radiation storm and a 'ground level event' (GLE). High-energy particles normally held at bay by Earth's atmosphere and magnetic field penetrated all the way to the ground on September 10. A leading analyst of GLEs says that radiation dose rates onboard commercial jets flying at high latitudes may have briefly doubled during the episode. Learn more about GLEs and what caused this solar flare to be so effective on today's edition of  Spaceweather .


Dateline -  10 September 2017 -   Another X-class solar flare

Departing sunspot AR2673 erupted again on September 10 (2:06 am AEST September 11), producing a major X8-class solar flare. A moderately strong solar radiation storm is underway as protons accelerated by the blast swarm around our planet. Shortwave radio blackouts over the Americas and around Earth's poles have also been observed in the aftermath of the explosion. Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for updates and more information.


Dateline -  8 September 2017 -   Severe geomagnetic storm

The debris from this week's monster X9-class solar flare hit Earth's magnetic field last night. The result: Northern Lights in the USA as far south as Arkansas. A severe (G4-class) geomagnetic storm yesterday sparked aurorae so bright that in parts of Scandinavia, traffic stopped as drivers pulled over to watch the display. More storms are in the offing tonight and tomorrow as Earth moves through the wake of this potent CME.  Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for updates and aurora photos.


Dateline -  7 September 2017 -   Geomagnetic storm warning

A CME has just hit Earth's magnetic field (September 8 at  ~9 am AEST). This is the debris from Thursday's decade-class X9 solar flare. It arrived earlier than expected, confirming that the solar storm cloud is both fast and potent. The CME appears to contain strong south-pointing magnetic fields that typically do a good job of igniting geomagnetic storms. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras in bright moonlight.  Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for updates and more information about this developing event.


Dateline -  6 September 2017 -   X-Class solar flare

On September 6, 2017, at 22:02 AEST, active sunspot AR2673 unleashed an X9.3-class solar flare - the strongest solar flare in more than a decade. The explosion also hurled a CME into space, and possibly toward Earth. Analysis of the event is still underway.  Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for updates and more information about the historical context of today's remarkable flare.


Dateline -  3 September 2017 -   Sunspot genesis

Two big sunspot groups are now facing Earth. Behemoth AR2674 has been growing for days, while newcomer AR2673 has suddenly quadrupled in size, with multiple dark cores breaching the surface of the sun in just the past 24 hours. The rapid development of these regions could herald Earth-directed flares in the days ahead. Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for movies of sunspot genesis in action.


Dateline -  27 August 2017 -   Astronomers unveil the most detailed map of the Milky Way to date

The map, based on observations from the European Space Agency’s Gaia probe, still only represents about 1% of the Milky Way’s stars, but is already 20 times more complete than any previous observations of the night sky. It lists the positions of more than one billion Milky Way stars with unprecedented precision.  Click  here  for more.     (Contributed by Tim.)


Dateline -  25 August 2017 -   Solar eclipse in the stratosphere

You've seen pictures of the Great American Solar Eclipse from the ground, and maybe even from space. But what about from the stratosphere? On August 21, just as the Moon was about to pass in front of the sun, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus released a network of 11 spaceweather balloons from five states in the path of totality. More than 20 cameras were waiting in the stratosphere when the Moon's shadow arrived, and they captured some truly unique images. First-look photos are highlighted here .


Dateline -  17 August 2017 -   Cassini's Grand Finale

The spacecraft Cassini is in the process of executing 22 daring ‘Grand Finale’ dives in the 2000-kilometre gap between Saturn and its innermost ring, concluding with an epic final plunge into the gas giant’s upper atmosphere.   Watch the ScienceCast Video


Dateline -  11 August 2017 -   Perseid fireballs

The Perseid meteor shower, which peaks this weekend (August 12-13), produces more fireballs than any other known annual meteor shower. (Fireballs are meteors brighter than Jupiter or Venus.) This characteristic of the Perseids is important because in 2017 the shower peaks under the light of a bright gibbous Moon. Perseid fireballs should be visible in spite of lunar interference, producing a pleasing display for anyone outdoors before sunrise on Saturday and Sunday. Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for observing tips.


Dateline -  28 July 2017 -   Noctilucent clouds from space

NASA's AIM spacecraft is back in business. Following a months-long interruption in normal operations, the polar-orbiting satellite is beaming back new images of noctilucent clouds at the edge of space. Data arriving now show a magnificent ring of electric-blue surrounding Earth's north pole, confirming recent sightings from the surface of our planet. Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  to learn more about these strange clouds and the status of AIM.


Dateline -  26 July 2017 -   Space lightning over Hawaii

This week, automated cameras atop a dormant volcano in Hawaii captured rare footage of Gigantic Jets leaping up from a powerful thunderstorm. The strange-looking bolts reached toward the edge of space, delivering a surge of electricity to the top of Earth's atmosphere. These unusual forms of 'space lightning' could become more common in the years ahead as declining solar activity allows more ionising cosmic rays to penetrate Earth's atmosphere.  Learn more on today's edition of  Spaceweather .


Dateline -  23 July 2017 -   Massive explosion on the far side of the Sun

On July 23, NASA and European spacecraft observed a massive explosion on the far side of the Sun. A spectacular CME tore through the Sun's atmosphere and it now appears to be en route to Mars. Earth will not feel the effects of the blast because of its location on the opposite side of the sun. However, the source of the eruption, old sunspot AR2665, will turn back toward our planet in early August, possibly bringing a new round of geomagnetic storms and aurorae.  Read all about it on today's edition of  Spaceweather .


Dateline -  21 July 2017 -   CME sweeps aside cosmic rays

On July 16, a CME hit Earth's magnetic field, sparking two days of geomagnetic storms and beautiful aurorae. The solar storm cloud also swept aside some of the cosmic rays currently surrounding our planet. A sudden decrease in deep space radiation was detected by a global network of neutron monitors as well as a space weather balloon in the stratosphere over California. Almost a week later, cosmic rays are finally returning to normal. Learn more about this event on today's edition of  Spaceweather .


Dateline -  16 July 2017 -   CME strike sparks geomagnetic storms

Geomagnetic storms began on July 16 following a CME strike at 3:45 pm AEST. Aurorae have been sighted in New Zealand and Tasmania as well as US states such as Washington and Wyoming. G1-class storms happening now could intensity to G2-class in the hours ahead as Earth moves into the CME's magnetized wake. Visit  Spaceweather  for images and updates.

Dateline -  14 July 2017 -   Strong solar flare and coronal mass ejection

After days of suspenseful quiet, huge sunspot AR2665 finally erupted on July 14 (0209 UT), producing a powerful M2-class solar flare. The explosion was underway for more than two hours and hurled a bright coronal mass ejection (CME) toward Earth. Geomagnetic storms and high-latitude aurorae are likely when the CME arrives this weekend. Visit  Spaceweather  for images and updates.


Dateline -  9 July 2017 -   Solar activity intensifies

Sunspot AR2665, which emerged just as few days ago, has mushroomed into a behemoth nearly as wide as the planet Jupiter. On July 9 the fast-growing sunspot produced an M-class solar flare and a short-lived shortwave radio blackout over east Asia and Australia. Stronger flares and Earth-directed CMEs may be in the offing as AR2665 turns toward our planet in the days ahead. Visit  Spaceweather  for images, movies and updates.


Dateline -  4 July 2017 -   Noctilucent Clouds over Europe

Nightfall is supposed to bring darkness. This week in parts of Europe, nightfall has brought something different: an electric-blue glow caused by clouds of water-frosted meteor smoke rippling over the continent. These summertime 'noctilucent clouds' (NLCs) have been much brighter than usual and even seem to be causing strange radio echoes north of the Arctic Circle. The sudden intensification of NLCs could herald more widespread sightings in Europe and North America in the nights ahead. Visit  Spaceweather  for observing tips and more information.


Dateline -  15 May 2017 -   Geomagnetic storm watch

NOAA forecasters say there is a 40% chance of minor G1-class geomagnetic storms on May 16-18 as Earth enters a stream of solar wind flowing from a hole in the sun's atmosphere. The storm could intensify to G2-class (moderately strong) on May 18 when an incoming CME is expected to deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras, especially in the southern hemisphere where deepening autumn darkness favours visibility. Visit  Spaceweather  for more information and updates.


Dateline -  2 May 2017 -   Meteors from Halley's Comet

A radar in Canada has detected radio echoes coming from the constellation Aquarius. This is a sign that the annual eta Aquarid meteor shower is underway. In the days ahead our planet will cross a network of debris streams from Halley's Comet, producing a drizzle of eta Aquarids numbering 10 to 30 meteors per hour in the northern hemisphere and perhaps twice that number in the southern hemisphere. Usually, the eta Aquarid shower peaks around May 6. This year, there might be an additional enhancement on May 4 and 5.  Check today's edition of  Spaceweather  for more information and observing tips.


Dateline -  23 April 2017 -   Geomagnetic storms continue

Following on the heels of Saturday's unexpected CME impact, our planet is now moving into a stream of high speed (700 km/s) solar wind. This is re-energizing geomagnetic activity around Earth's poles. NOAA forecasters say there is an 80% chance of geomagnetic storms on April 24 subsiding to 'only' 60% to 65% on April 25 and 26. High-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras in the nights ahead. In the USA, Northern Lights might be seen and photographed in northern-tier states from Washington to Maine. Southern Lights are also being reported by observers in high-latitude regions of New Zealand. Visit  Spaceweather  for photos and updates.


Dateline -  22 April 2017 -   Earth Day aurora storm

Last night, Northern Lights descended into the United States as far south as Michigan, Minnesota, and Washington, kicking off an unexpected display of bright auroras for Earth Day. What happened?  A CME that was supposed to miss Earth apparently hit instead, surprising forecasters. Geomagnetic storms are still underway as April 22nd unfolds; high-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for midnight auroras on April 22-23. Visit  Spaceweather  for updates.


Dateline -  22 April 2017 -   Meteor Shower tonight

The aurorae tonight may be spiced by an occasional flash of light.  Earth is entering a stream of debris from Comet Thatcher, source of the annual Lyrid meteor shower. Dark sky observers could see 10 to 20 shooting stars per hour shooting out of the constellation Lyra.  Sky maps and observing tips are at  Spaceweather.


Dateline -  19 April 2017 -   Old Sunspot returns, explodes

Old sunspot AR2644 has returned following a two-week trip around the back side of the sun, and it is still active. During the late hours of April 18, the sunspot's magnetic canopy exploded, producing a C5-class solar flare and hurling a spectacularly bright coronal mass ejection (CME) into space. The massive cloud of hot plasma will almost certainly miss Earth, but future explosions could be geoeffective as the sunspot turns toward our planet. Visit  Spaceweather  for more information and updates.


Dateline -  19 April 2017 -   Chance of magnetic storms

NOAA forecasters estimate a 50% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on April 20 when a high-speed stream of solar wind is due to reach our planet. This could spark bright Northern Lights in the waxing spring twilight around the Arctic Circle.  Monitor the  Aurora Gallery  on  Spaceweather  for sightings


Dateline -  2 April 2017 -  The Sun wakes up

Suddenly, solar flare activity is high. Following months of quiet with negligible flares, new sunspot AR2644 unleashed a series of M-class explosions on April 1 and 2. Each blast produced a shortwave radio blackout over a different part of our planet. The powerful explosions also sent beams of radio energy toward Earth, causing roars of static to issue from the loudspeakers of some shortwave receivers. Listen to a sample audio file on today's edition of  Spaceweather,  and stay tuned for more flares on April 4 as the sunspot shows little sign of quieting


Dateline -  1 April 2017 -  Huge sunspot faces Earth

2017 has been a year of few sunspots. That makes AR2645 even more remarkable. In recent days, the young sunspot has grown rapidly into a behemoth more than 150 000 kilometres wide with a magnetic field that harbours energy for M-class (moderately strong) solar flares. Because it is directly facing Earth, any eruptions this weekend could partially ionise the top of our planet's atmosphere and alter the normal propagation of radio transmissions around the globe.  Visit  Spaceweather  to view a movie of the growing sunspot


Dateline -  30 March 2017 -  Comet flyby

Green comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak is flying over Earth's North Pole this week where sky watchers can find it not far from the bowl of the Big Dipper. At closest approach on April 1 it will be just 21 million kilometres from Earth - an easy target for backyard telescopes and almost visible to the naked eye. It is currently too far north to be seen from south-east Queensland. Visit  Spaceweather  for more information and observing tips.


Dateline -  27 March 2017 -  Geomagnetic storm underway

As predicted, a stream of solar wind enveloped Earth's magnetic field on March 27. First contact produced a moderately-strong G2-class geomagnetic storm, with bright aurorae around both poles and electrical ground currents detected in the Arctic. More storming is likely during the next 48 hours as Earth moves deeper into the stream and the solar wind pressure intensifies. Visit Spaceweather  for current conditions and updates


Dateline -  21 March 2017 -  Solar wind arrives early

Arriving a day earlier than expected, a stream of fast-moving solar wind is buffeting Earth's magnetic field today. The broad stream is expected to influence our planet for the next three days with a 60% chance of polar geomagnetic storms between now and March 23. Arctic sky watchers should be alert for aurorae in the waxing Spring twilight. Visit  Spaceweather  for more information and updates. information and u

Dateline -  19 March 2017 -  Sunspot counts hit a 7-year low

The face of the Sun has been blank (no sunspots) for 13 consecutive days. The last time this happened was in April of 2010, near the end of an historically deep Solar Minimum.  The current stretch of blank Suns heralds a new Solar Minimum expected to arrive in 2019-2020.  What does this mean for us? Answers may be found on today's edition of  Spaceweather .


Dateline -  19 March 2017 -  Venus approaches inferior conjunction

This week, Venus will pass almost directly between Earth and the Sun - an event astronomers call 'inferior solar conjunction'.  As it turns its night side to Earth, the planetary disc of Venus is transforming into an exquisitely slender crescent easily seen through small telescopes or binoculars.  Visit  Spaceweather  for photos and observing tips.


Dateline -  4 March 2017 -  "Aurora Sprites" sighted over New Zealand

For the past few days, Earth has been moving through a stream of solar wind gusting with speeds of 700+ km/sec.  Last night in New Zealand, the stream produced an unusual display of "aurora sprites" above the Otago Peninsula.  Visit  Spaceweather  to see the apparition and to learn what probably caused it.


Dateline -  1 March 2017 -  Solar wind, geomagnetic storm

A G1-class polar geomagnetic storm is in progress on March 1 as Earth enters a fast-moving stream of solar wind.  This is sparking bright auroras around the Arctic Circle. The solar wind is flowing from a large canyon-shaped hole in the sun's atmosphere and is expected to influence Earth for the next two days. Visit  Spaceweather  for more information and updates.


Dateline -  27 February 2017 -  Solar wind, incoming

A canyon-shaped hole in the Sun's atmosphere is spewing a stream of solar wind toward Earth. Polar geomagnetic storms could begin as early as February 28 when the leading edge of the stream reaches our planet. NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% chance of G1-class storms on March 1 when Earth is fully enveloped by the fast-moving solar wind. More information is at  Spaceweather .


Dateline -  19 February 2017 -  A gash in the Sun's atmosphere

An unusually wide and sinuous hole has opened in the Sun's atmosphere, and it is stretching like a gash across the Sun's southern hemisphere. A roughly fan-shaped stream of solar wind flowing from the hole is gently buffeting Earth's magnetic field, and it could keep polar magnetic fields in an unsettled state for the rest of February. Long range forecasts suggest the month could end with a moderately strong (G2-class) geomagnetic storm. This is all good news for Arctic sky watchers, who can expect regular episodes of Northern Lights in the nights ahead. Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for more information and sightings.


Dateline -  6 February 2017 -  Green comet approaches Earth

This week, a small green comet named 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova (45P for short) is approaching Earth for one of the closest comet flybys of the Space Age. On the nights around February 11, Comet 45P will be an easy target for binoculars and small telescopes, revealing itself in eyepieces as an emerald coloured fuzzball. Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for sky maps and to find out what makes this little comet so green.


Dateline -  25 January 2017 -  Sunspot surprise

Barely visible only 24 hours ago, a new sunspot group big enough to swallow Earth is bubbling up through the solar surface. So far the active region poses no threat for strong solar flares, but this could change if its rapid growth continues. Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  to view a movie of sunspot genesis, and to learn how this development fits in with the recent 'crash' of the sunspot cycle.


Dateline -  20 January 2017 -  Radiation Clouds at aviation altitudes

A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Space Weather reports the discovery of radiation 'clouds' at aviation altitudes. When aeroplanes fly through these clouds, dose rates of cosmic radiation normally absorbed by air travellers can double or more.  Get the full story on today's edition of  Spaceweather .


Dateline -  12 January 2017 -  Sunspots vanish

So far this year, the sun has been blank more than 90% of the time. Only one very tiny sunspot observed for a few hours on January 3 interrupted a string of spotless days from New Year's through to January 11. To find a similar sequence of blank suns, we have to go back to May of 2010, almost seven years ago. What does this mean? Read today's edition of  Spaceweather  for the full story.


Dateline -  11 December 2016 -  Geminid meteor shower is underway

Earth is entering a stream of gravelly debris from 'rock comet' 3200 Phaethon, source of the annual Geminid meteor shower.  Although the shower's peak is not expected until December 13-15, observers are already seeing fireballs fly out of the constellation Gemini as early-arriving meteoroids hit Earth's atmosphere travelling at about 35 kilometres per second (78 000 mph). More information and observing tips may be found on today's edition of  Spaceweather .  Best time to look: after 2 am.


Dateline -  8 December 2016 -  Vale John Glenn

John Herschel Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, died today aged 95. The last survivor of the original seven Mercury astronauts, he completed three orbits of the Earth, some under manual control, in five hours on February 20, 1962, in the capsule Friendship 7. When he passed over Perth at night, everyone turned their lights on, and it has ever since been called the City of Lights. People of a certain age still remember his words as he entered orbit: "Zero G and I feel fine. Capsule is turning around... Oh, that view is tremendous!" Over Perth he said to NASA's CapCom (Capsule Communicator): "I do have lights in sight, on the ground. I can see a big pattern of lights, apparently right on the coast. I can see the outline of a town and a bright light just to the south of it (Perth and Rockingham)...  The lights show up very well, and thank everyone for turning them on, will you?" Friendship 7 re-entered the atmosphere and splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean near the Bahamas, where it and its pilot were picked up.

He toured the country for NASA, publicising and winning support for the space program. He kept asking NASA for another mission, but was turned down every time. Frustrated, he retired from NASA in 1964. Not until many years later was he told that President Kennedy had refused to allow a national hero to risk his life on another spaceflight.

After leaving NASA, John Glenn had a long and illustrious career as a U.S. Senator for Ohio. He was able to persuade NASA to fly him into orbit for a nine-day mission in the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1998, making him the oldest man (at 77) to orbit the Earth.  Click here or here for more information on John Glenn.


Dateline -  3 December 2016 -  What is 'the Da Vinci Glow' ?

Five hundred years ago, Leonardo da Vinci proposed an outlandish theory explaining why the Moon's surface glows during the lunar night. Turns out, his idea was correct. This weekend is a great time to see the "Da Vinci Glow" for yourself. Observing tips and the full story of da Vinci's imaginative leap are highlighted on today's edition of  Spaceweather .


Dateline -  3 December 2016 -  Large coronal hole on Sun is turning towards the Earth

A large hole in the sun's atmosphere has formed and it is turning toward Earth. Solar wind emerging from the opening could reach Earth as early as December 6-8 and influence the space environment of our planet for several days. Visit  Spaceweather  for more.


Dateline -  30 November 2016 -  Weird atmospheric wave ripples over China

On November 24, a deep-rippling wave at the edge of space crossed the night sky above China. Eye-witnesses saw the airglow layer split in two, and at least one photographer captured beautiful images of the event.  It might be a type of exotic wave called a 'mesospheric bore'.  See today's edition of Spaceweather  to see the photos and learn more.


Dateline -  30 November 2016 -  Unexpected solar flares

Catching forecasters off guard, a new sunspot (AR2615) has emerged and it is crackling with M-class solar flares. Minor radio blackouts are underway on November 29 - December 1 as pulses of UV and X-radiation ionise the top of the Earth's atmosphere.  This is *not* a major space weather event, but it is a break from the sun's recent deepening quiet. See today's edition of Spaceweather  for more.


Dateline -  28 November 2016 -  Noctilucent clouds over Antarctica

This is just in from NASA's AIM spacecraft: The sky above Antarctica is glowing electric blue. A ring of bright noctilucent clouds has formed around the South Pole. The annual apparition of these clouds is one of the earliest on record, and may hint at the workings of climate change.  See today's edition of Spaceweather for more information.


Dateline -  21 November 2016 -  Large coronal hole on Sun turns to face Earth again

At the end of October, a hole in the sun's atmosphere lashed Earth's magnetic field with solar wind, sparking moderately-strong geomagnetic storms and almost a full week of Arctic auroras. Now it's back. The Sun's 25-day rotation is turning the same 'coronal hole' toward Earth again. Forecasters expect the solar wind to reach Earth during November 23 with minor G1-class geomagnetic storms possible on November 24.  See today's edition of Spaceweather for more information and updates.


Dateline -  17 November 2016 -  Sunspot cycle at lowest level in five years

Sunspot counts have reached their lowest level in 5 years, a clear sign that Solar Minimum is approaching.  Contrary to popular belief, Solar Minimum is neither dull nor uneventful. Instead, space weather changes in interesting ways. Today's edition of Spaceweather lists some of the changes we can expect, including one that is happening right now: a measurable increase in atmospheric cosmic rays. 


Dateline -  12 November 2016 -  'Supermoon' on Monday, November 14

Some people are getting excited about the so-called 'Supermoon' next week. If you are one, then calm yourself. It's nothing special. The Moon's orbit around the Earth is not circular, but elliptical, as are all planetary orbits. Each month, the Moon's distance from Earth varies from a minimum of 362 600 kilometres (called 'perigee') to a maximum of 405 400 kilometres (called 'apogee'). These are average figures. The mean distance of the Moon from Earth is halfway between the two extremes, about 382 900 kilometres. When the Moon is at its closest, at perigee, it naturally looks a little larger than when it is at its most distant, at apogee.  It also looks a little brighter. These effects are hardly noticeable when the Moon is in its crescent, half-Moon or gibbous phases, but may be noticed when the Moon is Full.

A Full Moon which coincides with perigee (a 'Supermoon') is about 13% larger and 30% brighter than a Full Moon which occurs when the Moon is at apogee (a 'Micromoon'). On Monday night, the Moon will reach perigee (356 536 kilometres) at 9:17 pm. Its diameter will be 33.5 arcminutes. Full Moon will occur at 11:53 pm. It will be the largest full Moon since 1948, but only by a small fraction. The names 'Supermoons' and 'micromoons' do not come from astronomy, but from the pseudoscience of astrology.  Click here or here for more information. It will be a pleasant spectacle, rising over the sea on the Sunshine Coast, provided the horizon is free of clouds.   


 Dateline -  9 November 2016 -  CME sparks bright aurorae in Northern Hemisphere

Arriving later than expected, a CME brushed against Earth's magnetic field on November 9, sparking a bright display of aurorae seen mainly from Alaska. More aurorae are in the offing as a new solar wind stream heads in our direction.  Estimated time of arrival: November 11-12.  Visit today's edition of Spaceweather  for pictures of the November 9 aurorae and updates about the approaching solar wind stream.


Dateline -  6 November 2016 -  Sun hurls plasma cloud towards Earth

Yesterday, November 5, a magnetic filament on the sun became unstable and erupted. The blast opened a fiery canyon in the sun's atmosphere and hurled a CME toward Earth.  According to NOAA models, the plasma cloud could strike Earth's magnetic field on November 8, triggering G1-class geomagnetic storms and auroras around the poles. Visit today's edition of Spaceweather  for updates and more information.


Dateline -  25 October 2016 -  Strong geomagnetic storm

A strong 'G3-class' geomagnetic storm is underway on October 26 as the Earth enters a fast-moving stream of solar wind. The arrival of the solar wind stream was predicted, but the intensity of the resulting storm is greater than forecast. Tonight, Northern Lights around the Arctic Circle should be bright, and the glow could descend to northern-tier US states as well. Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for more information.


Dateline -  25 October 2016 -  Chance of magnetic storms

A large hole in the Sun's corona is turning toward Earth, and it is spewing a stream of high-speed solar wind into space. NOAA forecasters expect the stream to reach our planet on October 25 to 28, with a 35% chance of geomagnetic storms when it arrives. Storm levels could reach category G2, which means the glow of auroras might be visible not only around the Arctic Circle but also in northern-tier US states such as Minnesota and Michigan.  Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for more information.


Dateline -  20 October 2016 -  Meteors from Halley's Comet

Earth has entered a stream of debris from Halley's Comet, source of the annual Orionid meteor shower.  Forecasters expect the shower to peak during the night of October 21-22 with as many as 10 to 20 meteors per hour.  Glare from tonight's gibbous Moon will mute the display, but not completely eliminate it as NASA cameras are observing some Orionid fireballs bright enough to be seen in the moonlight. Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for observing tips and more information.


Dateline -  12 October 2016 -  Chance of magnetic storms in two days

NOAA forecasters say that a minor coronal mass ejection (CME) could deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field late on October 14.  Not long after, a high-speed stream of solar wind is expected to arrive. The combined effect of the CME plus the solar wind stream could spark G1-class polar geomagnetic storms on October 14 and 15.  Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for updates and more information.

dates and more information.

Dateline -  7 October 2016 -  Intercontinental SWx Balloon Network

Where are cosmic rays more intense, under the South Atlantic Anomaly in Chile or in the air above Washington State in the USA?  The answer might surprise you.  The newly-formed Intercontinental Space Weather Balloon Network is beginning to map variations in atmospheric radiation around our planet, showing the uneven shielding of our planet's magnetic field against cosmic rays from space.  Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  to see the results from the network's inaugural flight.


Dateline -  21 September 2016 -  How to see the new Chinese Space Station

Amateur astronomers have spotted China's new Earth-orbiting space station, which was launched just last week.  Although it is only a fraction of the size of the ISS, the Tiangong-2 is visible to the naked eye from dark-sky sites. Visit today's edition of  Spaceweather  for observing tips and a video of the outpost gliding across the night sky.


Dateline -  11 September 2016 -  Spherical images from the edge of space

Last week, a pair of space weather balloons were launched from opposite sides of the USA to measure cosmic rays in the atmosphere.  During the flights, a spherical camera captured unique images of Earth from the stratosphere. Click  here  to experience a fully-interactive, spinnable, zoomable view of the Atlantic Coast from an altitude of 33 kilometres.  First-look results from the radiation experiment may also be found  here .


Dateline -  8 September 2016 -  Asteroid double flyby

On September 7, a newly discovered asteroid about the size of a large whale flew over the south pole of Earth only 40 000 kilometres away. For scale, that's only a few thousand kilometres above the orbits of typical geosynchronous satellites. After the Earth flyby, the space rock turned and headed in the general direction of the Moon, executing a wider flyby of 286 000 kilometres on September 8. Where will this asteroid go next?  Click  here  for answers and photos of today's encounter with Earth.


Dateline -  5 September 2016 -  Eerie sounds from aurorae on Jupiter

On August 27, NASA's Juno spacecraft swooped low over the poles of Jupiter.  Not only did the spacecraft snap incredible photos of the most powerful aurorae in the solar system, but it also recorded some strange sounds.  Click  here  to listen to them on today's edition of Spaceweather.


Dateline -  5 September 2016 -  Geomagnetic storm

A G1-class geomagnetic storm is underway on September 5 as Earth moves through a broad stream of solar wind. This is the same stream that sparked bright aurorae around both poles over the weekend.  Click  here  for photos and updates.


Dateline -  31 August 2016 -  Annular Solar Eclipse in Africa

On Thursday, September 1, the Moon will pass in front of the sun over Africa, covering as much as 97% of the solar disc. Observers in 50 countries will experience a partial eclipse, while others will witness an annular "ring of fire."  Click  here  for more information and real time images as the eclipse unfolds.


Dateline -  29 August 2016 -  Cosmic Rays in the atmosphere

Spaceweather.com's high-altitude balloon program has just released another six months of radiation data. They show that cosmic rays in Earth's atmosphere are intensifying, continuing a trend that began more than a year ago.  Click  here  to learn why, and to find out about the down-to-Earth consequences of cosmic radiation.


Dateline -  27 August 2016 -  Spectacular conjunction

This weekend, Jupiter and Venus are having a spectacular conjunction in the sunset sky. On Sunday morning, at 8 am, they were separated by only a fraction of a degree, and the two brightest planets almost looked like they were going to touch. They will be a little further apart on Sunday night. This heavenly meeting is easy to see from the southern hemisphere, but much more challenging from the northern.  Click  here  for more information and the latest images.


Dateline -  16 August 2016 -  Space lightning over China

While photographing the Perseid meteor shower on August 13, a sky watcher in China captured rare images of a "gigantic jet" leaping out of a thundercloud. The luminous purple and red structure stretched its tentacles almost to the edge of space before vanishing in full view of dozens of onlookers.  Click  here  for photos and more information about this phenomenon.


Dateline -  7 August 2016 -  Perseid meteor shower outburst

Forecasters say the 2016 Perseids should be twice as active as usual, filling the sky with 200+ meteors per hour on peak nights between August 11 and 13.  This is happening because Earth is heading for an unusually rich stream of debris from the parent comet Swift-Tuttle.  Click  here  for sky maps, observing tips, and links to live webcasts of the Perseid outburst.


Dateline -  3 August 2016 -  The Sun is swallowing a Comet

One of the brightest Sun-grazing comets of the last twenty years is plunging toward the Sun and vapourising furiously. The icy visitor from the outer solar system may only have hours left to 'live'.  It is a large fragment of a comet that broke up in the distant past. Click  here  for photos and updates.

Dateline -  31 July 2016 -  Geomagnetic storm warning

NOAA forecasters estimate a 65% chance of geomagnetic storms on August 2 when a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) is expected to strike the Earth's magnetic field.  A solar wind stream following close on the heels of the CME could boost storm levels to G2 (moderately strong). High latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras.  Click  here  for updates and more information.

Dateline -  20 July 2016 -  Geomagnetic storm strikes Earth

Unexpectedly, a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) from the Sun struck the Earth's magnetic field during the early hours of July 20. The impact sparked a minor G1-class geomagnetic storm that could intensify in the hours ahead as our planet passes through the CME's strongly-magnetised wake.  Click  here  for updates.


Dateline -  17 July 2016 -  Big sunspots facing the Earth

Solar activity has been low for months.  That could soon change.  Two big sunspots are staring directly at Earth, and one of them has an unstable magnetic field that harbours energy for M-class solar flares. Images and updates are available  here .


Dateline - 17 July 2016 -  Noctilucent clouds over the USA

For the first time this summer, bright noctilucent clouds have crossed the Canadian border into the continental USA.  Formed by wisps of summertime water vapour freezing around meteor smoke, the electric-blue ripples were sighted by multiple observers in Seattle and surrounding areas. Check out the video  here .


Dateline -  5 July 2016 -  Juno probe enters orbit around Jupiter

Juno is a NASA space probe which was launched from Cape Canaveral on 5 August 2011. On 4 July, 2016 it entered a polar orbit around Jupiter. It will study Jupiter's composition, gravity field, magnetic field and polar magnetosphere.


Dateline -  29 June 2016 -  Green flash on Mars

You've heard of green flashes above the setting sun. This week an astrophotographer in Sweden spotted a green flash on Mars Click  here  for pictures and an explanation of this unusual phenomenon.

Dateline -  2 June 2016 -  Small asteroid explodes over Arizona

During the early hours of June 2, a 3-metre wide asteroid struck Earth's atmosphere over Arizona.  The resulting explosion shook the ground and blinded cameras with a flash of light ten times brighter than the full Moon. Meteorite hunters are now scouring the landscape north of Tucson for fragments of the space rock.  Click  here  for more information and updates on this developing story.


Dateline -  21 May 2016 -  7 pm Sky Show

Tonight, the full Moon gets together with Mars and Saturn to form a bright triangle in the constellation Scorpius. If we include the red supergiant star Antares just to the right, the triangle becomes a quadrilateral. The beautiful encounter is visible around the world, and happens just one week before Mars makes its closest approach to Earth in more than a decade.  Click  here  for observing tips and more information.  If you have a low eastern horizon, you can see this event from about 6:25 pm, and then watch the International Space Station pass high in the south at about 6:30 pm (see above).


Dateline -  20 May 2016 -  New ringed exoplanet discovered

A planet with a ring system like Saturn (but 200 times larger) was reported in the January 2016 Scientific American. 1SWASP J140747.93-394542.6 (often abbreviated to 1SWASP J140747 or J1407) is a star similar to our Sun located in the constellation of Centaurus at a distance of about 420 light-years from Earth. A very young star, its age is estimated to be 16 million years,and its mass is about 90% that of the Sun. The star has an apparent magnitude of 12.3 and requires a telescope to be seen. The star's name comes from the SuperWASP (Wide Angle Search for Planets) program and the star's Right Ascension and Declination coordinates.  Click  here  for the full story.    (Contributed by Tim) 


Dateline -  18 May 2016 -  NASA'S giant space balloon visible from Australia

On May 17, NASA successfully launched a gigantic helium balloon from Wanaka, New Zealand, on a 100+ day mission to the stratosphere. The 19 million cubic foot behemoth is now floating over the Great Australian Bight, as part of its mission to circumnavigate the southern hemisphere.  Sky watchers near the flight path can see the "space balloon" with the unaided eye and track it with backyard telescopes.  Click  here  to find out where it is and watch it. r observing tips and more information about the balloon's fascinating payload.


Dateline -  5 May 2016 -  "Cosmic Eye" video

"Cosmic Eye" is a three-minute video that zooms from a woman's face out to one billion light-years from Earth, and then back to subatomic particles. It was put together by Danail Obreschkow, an astrophysicist at the University of Western Australia.  Click here to watch it.     (Contributed by Jenny)


Dateline -  2 May 2016 -  Negative magnetic fields spark aurorae

For the past three days Earth has been passing through a region of interplanetary space filled with negative-polarity magnetic fields. This has caused intermittent geomagnetic storms and beautiful auroras around both poles. Click  here  for pictures and more information about this phenomenon.


Dateline -  2 May 2016 -  'Space lightning' sighted over the Caribbean

The Sprite season is definitely underway. Only a few days after a widespread display appeared over Texas, more sprites have popped up near Puerto Rico. This time the exotic forms of upper atmospheric electricity were sighted dancing above the sea instead of land.  Learn more about land and sea sprites  here ..


Dateline -  27 April 2016 - Cassini explores the depths of a methane sea on Titan

A pioneering oceanographic study of one of Saturn's moon's seas gives a clearer picture of its composition and topography. Click  here  for full story.    (Contributed by Tim)

Dateline -  21 April 2016 -  Lyrid meteors versus the Full Moon

The Earth is passing through a stream of debris from Comet Thatcher, source of the annual Lyrid meteor shower.  Unfortunately, the shower's peak coincides with tonight's Full Moon.  Will we see any Lyrids through the glare?  It's possible. NASA cameras have captured a number of Lyrid fireballs over the USA, easy to see in bright moonlight.  Click  here  for more information.

Dateline -  18 April 2016 -  Big sunspot erupts

Surprise! Quiet sunspot AR2529 isn't so quiet, after all. The heart-shaped active region erupted on April 18 (10:39 am our time), producing a strong M6.7-class solar flare and shortwave radio blackouts around the Pacific.   Click  here  for more information.


Dateline -  10 April 2016 -  Giant spot on the Sun

The Sun's headlong plunge into solar minimum has been interrupted by the surprise emergence of a big sunspot. Wide enough to swallow Earth with room to spare, AR2529 doubled in size over the weekend. The behemoth is now being photographed by amateur astronomers around the world and closely monitored by NASA spacecraft.  Click  here  for more information.

Dateline -  1 April 2016 -  A 360-degree panorama of the Martian landscape from the rover Curiosity

This panorama is interactive - using the arrows at upper left, you can pan around the spectacular landscape with its rocks, sand dunes and Mount Sharp in the background, or tilt down to examine the rover itself. It's like standing on Mars on top of Curiosity, and looking around. Click  here  for the view.    (Contributed by Sean)


Dateline -  25 March 2016 -  Hole in the Sun's atmosphere

A canyon-shaped hole in the sun's atmosphere has opened up and it is spewing solar wind toward Earth. Estimated time of arrival: March 27-28.  Arctic sky watchers should be alert for a springtime display of auroras.  Click  here  for more information.


Dateline -  25 March 2016 -  New radar images of Earth-buzzing comet

Earlier this week, comet fragment P/2016 BA14 made an unusually-close approach to Earth. Using a radar in the Mojave Desert, NASA researchers pinged the comet as it passed by, revealing an icy nucleus that looks like a brick - or a pear - depending on your point of view. See for yourself  on today's edition of  Spaceweather .


Dateline -  17 March 2016 -  Green comet approaches Earth

There's no danger of a collision.  However, a small green comet named 252P/LINEAR is about to make one of the closest approaches to Earth of any comet in modern times, passing just 5.4 million kilometres from our planet on March 21. Also, the comet appears to have company - a possible fragment of 252P/LINEAR will fly past just one day later. A weak meteor shower could follow the double flyby near the end of March.  This comet is well-placed for Australian observers, being currently in the far-southern sky. Tonight it will be less than a handspan above the South Celestial Pole at 7 pm and will be visible all night. If you can't find it because of bright moonlight, note where it should be with respect to the constellations and then wait for the Moon to set at 1 am. By that time the comet will have rotated to be at about the same altitude above the southern horizon as the Pole itself, but nearly a handspan to its right. Located in the constellation Mensa, it is estimated to be magnitude 6 in brightness, and therefore should be visible through binoculars or a small telescope.

The comet is moving rapidly across the sky, and will be very close to the South Celestial Pole on Sunday, March 20. By Tuesday, March 22, it will be just underneath the star Atria in Triangulum Australe, and the best viewing time will be after 11 pm. By March 25, 252P/LINEAR will be in the tail of Scorpius, and best seen after midnight. By March 29, it will be about a third of a handspan below Saturn, heading north. Bright moonlight will interfere with all observations. Click  here  for more information.


Dateline -  9 March 2016 -  Photographs of yesterday's total eclipse of the Sun

Yesterday, the New Moon blocked out the Sun, producing a magnificent total eclipse over Indonesia and the northern Pacific Ocean.  Click  here  for some photographs of the eclipse from unique vantage points - including the window of an Alaskan Airlines flight that diverted into the path of totality.  Also notable are satellite movies of the Moon's cool shadow sweeping across the Pacific.

Dateline -  29 February 2016 -  Spherical camera at the edge of space

On February 27, Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus launched a space weather balloon to monitor increasing levels of cosmic rays in the stratosphere.  The payload carried something new: a spherical camera.  Click  here  to view the first interactive 3D images of the edge of space.


Dateline -  27 February 2016 -  How the rover Spirit travelled to Mars and landed safely

This is a very cool video!!  Click here .    (Contributed by Tim)


Dateline -  16 February 2016 -  Geomagnetic storm in progress

Earth is entering a stream of high-speed solar wind, and this will cause G1-class geomagnetic storms on February 18. This is not the CME that has been expected for the last couple of days. Instead, the solar wind is flowing from a coronal hole on the Sun.  Click  here  for photos and more information.


Dateline -  27 January 2016 -  Mars rover Opportunity celebrates 12 years exploring Mars

NASA's Mars rover, Opportunity just celebrated its 12th anniversary on Mars—a mission that was originally meant to last just 90 days. Although recently eclipsed in the news by its bigger brother Curiosity, Opportunity is still going strong and making valuable scientific discoveries. Launched into space in 2003, Opportunity bounced to a hole-in-one landing in a small crater on Mars' Meridiani Planum on January 25, 2004. It has since spent 4270 Martian days, or sols, on the surface, slowly moving from target to target, exploring craters, meteorites, unusual rock formations, and finding evidence of past water activity. Over the past 144 months, Opportunity has taken more than 200 000 images, and driven a total of 26.50 miles (42.65 kilometres) across Mars — not bad for a mission designed to last only three months.   more.    (Contributed by Mark) 


Dateline -  27 January 2016 -  Cosmic rays in the atmosphere

Newly-released measurements by high-altitude balloons show that cosmic rays in Earth's atmosphere are intensifying.  The ongoing increase, which has been tracked since early 2015, will likely accelerate in the months and years ahead as the solar cycle swings away from Solar Max. This result is of interest to everyone from mountain climbers and air travellers to operators of high-altitude drones. Visit  Spaceweather  for more information.


Dateline -  27 January 2016 -  A morning sky show

The five brightest planets in the solar system have lined up in the morning sky for a naked-eye display of rare beauty.  Towards the end of January and through February, there will be a grand alignment of all the naked-eye planets in the pre-dawn sky. To a person observing them at 4 am, the five planets are all strung out like beads on a string. Firstly, the largest and second-brightest planet, Jupiter is high in the sky, about a handspan north-west of the zenith (the point in the sky directly overhead). Two and a half handspans to its right (east) and past the star Spica, we can see the Moon near Last Quarter. Half a handspan further east, is the red planet Mars. One and a half handspans further east is the cream-coloured ringed planet, Saturn. About the same distance further east is Venus, much brighter than any of the others. Less than half a handspan further east is Mercury. Pluto is right next to Mercury in our view from Earth, but is too faint to see without a telescope. During the month, the planets will maintain their relationships with each other, but as seen from Earth they will become more strung out as the weeks go by.

The Moon of course moves faster around the sky as we see it, and will be close to Jupiter on January 28. During the following week it will hop from planet to planet, being close to Mercury on February 7. This process will repeat between February 24 and March 8. Visit  Spaceweather  for dates and sky maps..


Dateline -  20 January 2016 - A new ninth planet beyond Pluto ? 

Today, planetary scientists from Caltech announced intriguing new evidence for a Neptune-sized planet orbiting the sun beyond Pluto.  The planet itself has not yet been seen, but its gravitational influence on other objects in the outer solar system may lead to its discovery. Visit  Spaceweather  for more information.


Dateline -  17 January 2016 - Comet Catalina approaches Earth 

Tomorrow morning, Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10) is making its closest approach to Earth, only 108 million kilometres away. The beautiful green comet is only barely visible to the unaided eye, but it is an easy target for backyard telescopes and digital cameras as it passes through the tail of the Great Bear (Ursa Major). It is poorly placed for observers in southern Queensland, being at a maximum elevation above the northern horizon of less than seven degrees at 5:11 am. Unfortunately, at that time the Sun is just on the point of rising. To see the comet, you need a completely dark sky, so you will need to look for it with binoculars at least an hour before sunrise. At 4 am the comet will be only 4.5 degrees above the horizon, and about ten degrees east of due north. As it is moving to the north, the comet will be below the horizon for local observers within a few days. It will pass by Polaris (the northern Pole Star) at the end of this month, and will then head through the constellations of Camelopardalis (the Giraffe) in February, and Perseus in March. It will be close to the bright star Capella on May 28, when it will be at magnitude 14. Comet Catalina is making a one-time visit to the inner Solar System, and will never return. Visit  Spaceweather  for photos and finder charts.


Dateline -  3 January 2016 - Quadrantids meteor shower 

Earth is about to pass through a narrow stream of debris from shattered comet 2003 EH1, source of the annual Quadrantids meteor shower. Forecasters expect the shower to peak on Monday morning, January 5 at about 6 pm. The timing favours observers in North America who could see dozens of meteors per hour flowing from a radiant near the North Star. Visit  Spaceweather  for more information.


Dateline -  3 January 2016 - Geomagnetic storm possible on January 3-5 

NOAA analysts say a CME (coronal mass ejection) is heading toward Earth and could deliver a glancing blow to our planet's magnetic field during the next 24 hours. The impact is expected to spark minor to moderate geomagnetic storms on January 3 to 5.  Aurora alerts are available from Spaceweather .


Dateline -  23 December 2015 -  New sunspot is growing rapidly

A new sunspot (AR2473) is growing rapidly south of the sun's equator, more than quadrupling in size in the past 24 hours. Crackling with M-class solar flares, the sunspot has already caused several minor shortwave radio blackouts, mainly in the Earth's southern hemisphere. More flares and radio blackouts are in the offing as the growing sunspot turns toward Earth. Visit  Spaceweather  for more information


Dateline -  13 December 2015 -  Geminid Meteor Shower peaks

The annual Geminid meteor shower peaks tonight, December 14-15, as Earth passes through a stream of gravelly debris from 'rock comet'  3200 Phaethon. Dark-sky observers in both hemispheres could see as many as 120 meteors per hour during the dark hours between local midnight and sunrise on December 15. Last night, December 13-14, NASA's all-sky meteor network detected 15 Geminid fireballs over the USA. That number will surely increase tonight when the shower peaks. Visit  Spaceweather  for more information.


Dateline -  13 December 2015 -  Magnetic storm on a comet

Earth isn't the only place with geomagnetic storms. Comets can have them, too. Such a storm appears to be underway in the sinuous blue ion tail of Comet Catalina (C/2013 US10).  Observers with backyard telescopes are monitoring the event with photos highlighted  here .


Dateline -  9 December 2015 -  Follow the last Moon men of Apollo 17 on their incredible journey

The longest, and last Apollo moon mission took off on its incredible journey nearly 43 years ago, and you can follow every minute of it, see rarely displayed photos, and hear the raw audios on a remarkable website. Click  here  to access an introductory page, where a  remarkable real-time interactive website on Apollo 17  can be found.


Dateline -  2 December 2015 -  Interplanetary spacecraft to buzz Earth today 

Japan's Hayabasa 2 spacecraft, on a six year mission to catch and sample an asteroid, will fly past Earth on December 3. Earth's gravity will slingshot the spacecraft toward its target, the asteroid 162173 Ryugu, which Hayabasa 2 is expected to reach in July 2018. After the spacecraft reaches Ryugu, it will orbit the asteroid for a year and a half. During that time, Hayabasa 2 will deploy four landers and drop a copper impactor to blow a hole in the asteroid's surface. Hayabasa 2 itself will briefly touch down on the asteroid at least once to collect samples excavated by the impactor. In December 2019, the spacecraft will leave the asteroid and use its ion engines to return to Earth, carrying precious samples of Ryugu. Ambitious? Yes. But if Hayabasa 2 completes even a fraction if its mission, it will be a success.

The spacecraft is small (mass: 590 kg, dimensions: 2 x 1.6 x 1.25 metres), so when it flies by Earth it will not be visible to the unaided eye. Its brightness estimates at closest approach vary from magnitude 11 to 13.


Dateline -  19 November 2015 -  The Space Doctor's Big Idea 

Einstein's Theory of General Relativity is 100 years old this year. If you don't know what it's about (and how it helps your mobile phone to know where it is), click  here  and let the Space Doctor explain it to you in everyday language.   (Contributed by Sean)


Dateline -  5 November 2015 -  Incoming coronal mass ejection from Sun 

Sunspot AR2443 erupted yesterday, producing a CME that could deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field on November 7. G1-class geomagnetic storms and high-latitude aurorae are possible when the CME arrives this weekend.  Visit  Spaceweather  for more information.


Dateline -  5 November 2015 -  Taurid fireballs 

The annual Taurid meteor shower is underway - and it is unusually good.  Observers around the world are reporting bright fireballs in the night sky as Earth ploughs through a swarm of gravelly debris from parent Comet Encke.  Forecasters say the display could continue until November 11.  Visit  Spaceweather  for a photograph.

Dateline -  1 November 2015 -  Geomagnetic storm warning

A high-speed stream of solar wind is about to hit Earth's magnetic field, prompting NOAA forecasters to estimate an 85% to 90% chance of geomagnetic storms on November 2-3.  This is the same 800 km/s stream that lashed Earth's magnetic field in early October, sparking strong geomagnetic storms and bright aurorae over northern-tier US states. Visit  Spaceweather  for more information and updates.


Dateline -  1 November 2015 -  Taurid fireballs

The annual Taurid meteor shower is underway and it is lighting up the midnight sky with bright fireballs. Taurid meteoroids are gravelly pieces of debris from Comet Encke that strike our planet's atmosphere at 70,000 mph.  They pose no danger to people on the ground as they disintegrate entirely high above Earth's surface every few hours. If forecasters are correct, the display could continue until Nov. 10th.  Tune into  Space Weather Radio  for live radar echoes.


Dateline -  31 October 2015 -  Hubble peels back the layers of a warm Neptune-sized exoplanet

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have discovered an immense cloud of hydrogen evaporating from a Neptune-sized planet named GJ 436b. The planet’s atmosphere is evaporating because of extreme irradiation from its parent star.     Full story     Sciencecast  Video


Dateline -  31 October 2015 -  Using a tablet computer in space

The Fine Motor Skills experiment on the station is looking at how long-duration microgravity effects fine motor task performance.     Full story     Sciencecast  Video


Dateline -  29 October 2015 -  Halloween fireballs 

This weekend, Earth could run into a stream of gravelly debris from Comet Encke, source of the annual Taurid meteor shower.  The last time this happened, ten years ago in October 2005, the encounter sparked a two-week display of bright meteors called the 'Halloween fireballs'.  Will it happen again in 2015?  Visit  Spaceweather  for more information and observing tips.


Dateline -  29 October 2015 -  A band of special, young stars has been discovered near the heart of the Milky Way 

The remarkable discovery suggests that some unknown force is breathing new life into our galaxy’s centre.   (Contributed by Lee)     Full story


Dateline -  29 October 2015 -  Cassini has a successful close encounter with Enceladus 

NASA's Cassini Spacecraft has made a successful plunge through a plume spewing from Saturn's moon Enceladus, coming as close as 49 kilometres above its surface.     Full story and simulation


Dateline -  27 October 2015 -  Cassini has a close encounter with Enceladus 

NASA's Cassini Spacecraft is about to make a daring plunge through a plume spewing from Saturn's moon Enceladus.     Full story     Sciencecast  Video


Dateline -  25 October 2015 -  Doomed comets discovered 

The ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) has discovered more than 3000 doomed comets that have passed close to the sun.     Full story     Sciencecast  Video


Dateline -  24 October 2015 -  Bright conjunction of planets just before dawn 

Look east before sunrise in late October for a beautiful conjunction of bright planets.     Full story     Sciencecast  Video


Dateline -  20 October 2015 -  Meteors from Halley's Comet 

Earth is passing through a stream of debris from Halley's Comet, source of the annual Orionid meteor shower. Forecasters expect the shower to peak tonight, October 21-22, with as many as 20 meteors per hour. No matter where you live, the best time to look is during the dark hours before sunrise on Thursday the 22nd.  Click  here  for sky maps and more information.


Dateline -  16 October 2015 -  Did cosmic rays kill the Martians ? 

A senior space weather analyst has calculated the odds that astronauts in the hit film 'The Martian' could have survived solar flares and cosmic rays during their travels to Mars. Learn more about the science behind the blockbuster on today's edition of  Spaceweather .  


Dateline -  16 October 2015 -  Huge eruption on the Sun

Earlier today, a massive and beautiful plume of plasma erupted near the sun's southeastern limb. The event could herald the approach of an active sunspot and an increase in solar activity this weekend.  Click  here  for an update.


Dateline -  14 October 2015 -  Hole in the Sun's atmosphere 

A gigantic hole in the sun's atmosphere has opened up and it is spewing solar wind toward Earth. Because this 'coronal hole' is unusually wide, Earth could be inside the emerging solar wind stream for days. Minor geomagnetic storms are already in progress around the Arctic Circle.  Click  here  for more information.


Dateline -  9 October 2015 -  Blue skies on Pluto, green skies on Earth 

Earth isn't the only planet with blue skies. Pluto has them, too. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has just beamed back the first colour images of Pluto's atmosphere, and they look a lot like home. Click  here  for the full story.

This week, sky watchers around the Arctic Circle have seen some of the most intense green aurorae of the current solar cycle. Usually, such displays are caused by CMEs.  Not this time, though. The reason for the outbreak is explained on today's edition of  Spaceweather .


Dateline -  8 October 2015 -  Occultation of Venus tomorrow morning 

In the pre-dawn hours of October 9, the waning crescent Moon will occult the planet Venus. The Moon will have a phase of 15% and will rise at 2:59 am. Venus will have an angular diameter of 30 arcseconds, a phase of 40% and will rise at  3:02 am. They will be only half-a-degree apart when they rise. The Moon will gradually approach Venus, and the occultation will begin at 4:21:34 am. It will take about 46 seconds for Venus to be fully covered by the Moon's bright limb. For the next 1 hour and 25 minutes, Venus will be out of sight behind the Moon. At 5:47:07 am Venus will reappear above the dark limb. It will take 55 seconds to reappear. This will be a spectacular event to observe with binoculars, or ideally with a small telescope tracking on Venus, but will be difficult for naked-eye observers as the Sun will have risen at 5:20 am, 28 minutes before the reappearance of Venus.   (Timings contributed by Oakleigh).


Dateline -  7 October 2015 -  URBAN AURORAE

Last night, October 6, sky watchers around the Arctic Circle witnessed an outburst of aurorae so bright that they rivalled city lights. This could herald an even stronger display on October 7 and 8 when a "co-rotating interaction region" followed by a solar wind stream is expected to hit Earth's magnetic field.  Click  here  for more information.


Dateline -  4 October 2015 -  'WATER-BASED LAVA' ON PLUTO'S MOON?

New images just received from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft reveal a giant canyon on Pluto's moon Charon, as well as evidence that parts of Charon may have been resurfaced by strange 'water-based lavas'.  Click  here  for the full story.


Dateline -  1 October 2015 -  Daytime meteor shower

As October begins, a radar in Canada is detecting echoes from a fairly strong meteor shower.  The source appears to be debris from asteroid 2005 UD.  Don't bother looking for these meteors because they are streaking across the daytime sky, overwhelmed by the glare of the sun.  You can, however, hear their radar echoes.  Click  here  for live audio and more information.


Dateline -  29 September 2015 -  High solar activity

Big sunspot AR2422 is crackling with M-class solar flares and has an unstable magnetic field that harbours energy for even stronger eruptions. NOAA forecasters estimate a 25% chance of powerful X-class solar flares during the next 24 hours. Click  here  for more information and updates.


Dateline -  26 September 2015 -  Total lunar eclipse of supermoon visible in the Americas, Africa, Europe and western Asia (but not Australia or the western Pacific)

This weekend's full Moon is a 'supermoon', the biggest and brightest of the year, and it is about to be eclipsed. On Sunday evening, September 27, sky watchers on the other side of the world from Australia will see the Full Moon glide into the shadow of Earth, becoming a beautiful shade of red in the process. The same eclipse will be visible from South America, Europe, Africa and parts of Asia during the early hours of September 28. It will not be visible from Australia or any place in the western Pacific. The Coca-Cola Space Science Centre is broadcasting the event live  here .

For more information about the eclipse, and a big sunspot facing Earth this weekend, click  here .  The next total eclipses of the Moon visible from the Sunshine Coast will occur on 31 January 2018,  28 July 2018,  and 26 May 2021.  We will have to wait until  22 July 2028 to see a total eclipse of the Sun in Australia, but solar eclipse paths are very narrow and observers will have to travel to the path which will pass close to Wyndham in Western Australia, Davenport in the Northern Territory, Thargomindah and Hungerford in Queensland, Burke, Dubbo and Sydney in New South Wales, and Milford Sound and Queenstown in New Zealand. When the centre of the eclipse path passes directly over the University of Sydney at Ultimo, the path will be 200 kilometres wide. Only inside this path will totality be experienced.


Dateline -  21 September 2015 -  The search to create dark matter is on

Scientists believe they may soon be able to make dark matter (the invisible material that comprises most of the mass of the universe) inside the world’s most powerful atom-smasher, the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), near Geneva. The collider recently reopened with double the power it employed during its successful hunt for the Higgs boson. Since matter and energy are interchangeable, at these massive energies new particles can be created. More power means a greater chance of creating more massive particles – possibly dark ones. It also creates more interactions so if the creation of dark matter is extremely rare, the chances of picking it up are greater. Click  here  for more.    (Contributed by Tim) 


Dateline -  16 September 2015 -  Double solar eclipse

NASA's MMS spacecraft are flying around Earth in a precise formation made possible by an out-of-this-world system of GPS navigators.     Full story     Sciencecast  Video


Dateline -  14 September 2015 -  Double solar eclipse

Yesterday, a NASA spacecraft witnessed a rare double eclipse. The Solar Dynamics Observatory photographed Earth and the Moon passing in front of the Sun at the same time. You can see the photos in today's edition of  Spaceweather.com .


Dateline -  11 September 2015 -  Geomagnetic storm from Sun hits Earth

A stream of solar wind hit the Earth's magnetic field on September 11, sparking one of the strongest geomagnetic storms of the year and auroras in multiple US states. This continues a trend of relatively high geomagnetic activity that began on September 7. High-latitude sky watchers could see more auroras tonight.  Click  here  for more information and updates.


Dateline -  2 September 2015 -  155th Anniversary of the Carrington Event

Today is the anniversary of an historic solar storm, the Carrington Event. On September 2, 1859, a CME (coronal mass ejection) struck Earth's magnetic field with such power that telegraph stations caught fire and people in Cuba read their morning newspapers by the red light of the aurora borealis. If a similar storm struck our planet today, it might cause trillions of dollars of damage to society's high-tech infrastructure. Could the Carrington Event happen again? It almost did just a few years ago. Extreme solar storms - past, present and future - are highlighted on today's edition of  Spaceweather.com .


Dateline -  27 and 28 August 2015 -  Re Stephen Hawking's latest thoughts on Black Holes

Hawking is trying to discover what happens to the physical information about material passing through the event horizon of a black hole, and whether black holes provide portals to alternative universes.  This leads to the question, "What if the Big Bang was simply our entry point from another universe?"  Click  here   for more.      (Contributed by Lee)

This idea centres on how matter and energy falling into a black hole could in theory come out of a 'white hole' in another universe. In such a situation, both the black hole and the white hole are mouths of an Einstein-Rosen bridge, popularly known as a wormhole.  With that in mind, theoretical physicist Nikodem Poplawski at Indiana University conjectures that when a black hole forms from the collapse of a dying star, a universe is born at the same time from the white hole on the other side of the wormhole. Click  here  for more along these lines.     (Contributed by Matt)

Hawking's talking (I guess) about a rotating Kerr black hole with a ring-shaped singularity, which since the '60s has been the basis for ideas like white holes, worm holes, closed time-like curves, and kind-of-sort-of-maybe-hand-wave-y other universes. If black holes can be portals, do they generate the other universes, or just punch through somehow? If they generate a universe, what happens to the inhabitants of that universe once the black hole in this universe eventually evaporates due to Hawking radiation, or loses angular momentum via the ergosphere, or gains a chunk of mass, or ... ?    Maybe you start to get weird physics problems that need answers like dark matter...      (Contributed by Sean)


Dateline -  20 August 2015 -  More strange lightning jets photographed from the International Space Station

This month, astronauts onboard the International Space Station have witnessed exotic forms of lightning that reach up from thunderclouds near Earth's surface all the way to the edge of space. Their photographs of "sprites" and "trolls" dancing over Mexico are a must-see. These forms can been seen from Earth's surface, too. Observing tips and more information are available  here .


Dateline -  14 August 2015 -  Gigantic jets of lightning appear over Hurricane Hilda

A rare form of upward lightning that reaches almost to the edge of space has been observed shooting up from Hurricane Hilda as the storm approaches Hawaii. Click  here  to see the video and learn more about these 'gigantic jets'.


Dateline -  14 August 2015 -  Inferior conjunction of Venus

The planet Venus is turning into a wafer-thin crescent as it passes almost directly between the Earth and Sun tomorrow morning, Sunday, August 16. Photos and observing tips are available  here .


Dateline -  11 August 2015 -  Perseid Meteor Shower peaks tonight and tomorrow night

This week, Earth passes through a stream of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, source of the annual Perseid meteor shower. Forecasters say the show could be especially good because the Moon is nearly new when the shower peaks on August 12 and 13.    Full story     Sciencecast  Video


Dateline -  5 August 2015 -  Perseid Meteor Shower underway

One meteor shower produces more fireballs than any other - and it's underway now. Earth is entering a stream of debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle, source of the annual Perseid meteor shower. NASA all-sky cameras are detecting an increasing number of Perseid fireballs as the shower's peak approaches on August 12-13. Click  here  for updates and more information.


Dateline -  27 July 2015 -  A "Blue Moon" next Friday night

The second Full Moon of July is just around the corner. According to modern folklore, it is a "Blue Moon."    Full story     Sciencecast  Video


Dateline -  25 July 2015 -  Improved image of Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft flyby


Dateline -  16 July 2015 -  First close-up of Pluto from the New Horizons spacecraft flyby

The 70 metre antenna of the Canberra Deep Space Complex at Tidbinbilla has been working all last night, recording the faint signals coming from the New Horizons spacecraft. Taking about 4.5 hours to cross the 4.88 billion kilometres distance from Pluto to Earth, the signals contain the first close-up images of Pluto and its companion Charon. Click here for the latest images. Is Mickey Mouse's dog Pluto on Pluto ? Click here to find out.


Dateline -  14 July 2015 -  Pluto from New Horizons


Dateline -  13 July 2015 -  Weather report for Pluto during the New Horizons flyby tomorrow

The above times are Australian Eastern Standard Time.

As NASA's New Horizons spacecraft prepares to buzz Pluto on July 14, space weather forecasters have released long distance predictions for the distant dwarf planet. A region of merged CMEs could be on the verge of hitting Pluto and compressing its atmosphere, but this is expected to happen well after the flyby. Meanwhile, New Horizons has just taken its best picture of the side of Pluto which will not be visible during the flyby. It will be decades before we get another look at this side of Pluto, which is dotted with mysterious dark spots.  Click here for more information.

Dateline -  10 July 2015 -  Coffee in space

Advances in the understanding of how fluids behave in low gravity is a key to an excellent cup of coffee in space.    Full story     Video


Dateline -  26 June 2015 -  Handprints on Hubble

As the Hubble Space Telescope celebrates its 25th anniversary, scientists are reflecting on the key role astronauts played in allowing the telescope to continue making great discoveries.    Full story     Video


Dateline -  22 June 2015 -  Geomagnetic storm warning

A CME (coronal mass ejection from the Sun) is heading directly for Earth, and it is expected to sweep up one or more lesser CMEs before it reaches our planet tonight and tomorrow. The combined impact is likely to spark polar geomagnetic storms and high-latitude aurorae.  Click  here  for more information and updates.


Dateline -  11 June 2015 -  Solar aurora watch

On June 18, the Sun produced its biggest flare in nearly two months. The M3-class explosion caused a brief low-frequency radio blackout over North America and hurled a CME into space. A glancing blow from the CME is likely on June 21 , possibly sparking a geomagnetic storm and solstice aurorae. Click  here  for updates.


Dateline -  11 June 2015 -  Sunset planets

When sun goes down tonight, step outside and look west. Venus, Jupiter and the crescent Moon are having a lovely conjunction in the sunset sky. Click  here  for photos


Dateline -  11 June 2015 -  Venus and Jupiter on show

Venus and Jupiter are converging for a must-see close encounter at the end of June. It could be the best backyard sky show of 2015.    Full story     Video


Dateline -  4 June 2015 -  Arietids meteor swarm has started

The Earth is entering a stream of debris from an unknown comet, and this is causing one of the most intense meteor showers of the year. Ironically, most sky watchers won't notice it, because the shower peaks in broad daylight. We only know it's happening right now because a radar in Canada is picking up echoes from meteoroids streaking through the blue sky overhead. Astronomers call these meteors 'Arietids' as they appear to radiate from the direction of the constellation Aries, not far from the June Sun.

Visual observers may be able to see a handful of Arietids in the hour or so before sunrise over the next week when the shower is at its peak. These will all be  'Earthgrazers' - that is, meteors which enter at shallow (<10o) angles and streak across very long arcs in the sky. This phenomenon is a result of the radiant never getting much above the horizon before the rising sun renders the meteors invisible to the eye.

The shower is unique in that it has a very broad peak lasting almost five days. The best time to watch will be any day during the early morning hours of June 6 – June 12. For observing tips on how you might be able to see earthgrazing Arietids just before sunrise in the mornings ahead, click  here .


Dateline -  22 May 2015 -  Noctilucent clouds observed over the Arctic

NASA's AIM spacecraft has spotted a luminous patch of electric-blue drifting across the Arctic Circle. The sighting marks the beginning of the 2015 season for northern-hemisphere noctilucent clouds (NLCs). Long ago, NLCs were a polar phenomenon confined mainly to the Arctic. In recent years, however, they have intensified and spread, with sightings as far south as Utah and Colorado in the United States.  Click  here  to learn more about these exotic clouds and how northern hemisphere observers might see them this summer.


Dateline -  19 May 2015 -  Geomagnetic storm in progress

A moderate (G2-class) geomagnetic storm is underway today as Earth enters an unsettled stream of solar wind. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras, especially during the hours around local midnight. Click  here  for more information and updates.


Dateline -  15 May 2015 -  The first marathon on Mars has been completed

On Earth, a fast runner takes a few hours to complete a marathon. On Mars, the first marathon has taken eleven years to complete. NASA's Opportunity rover crossed the finish line of the first "Martian Marathon" earlier this year.    Full story     Video


Dateline -  13 May 2015 -  The mystery of Earth's companion 1991 VG

About 20 years ago, a mysterious object made a close approach to Earth. Was it a natural object  such as a near-Earth asteroid, a man-made object such as an expended rocket stage from the Apollo Project, or even an alien probe to examine the Earth? It will be back in two years' time. Click   here  for a full report.      (Contributed by Mark)


Dateline -  11 May 2015 -  Aurorae on Mars

NASA's MAVEN spacecraft (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) has detected widespread aurorae on Mars.    Full story


Dateline -  6 May 2015 -  Powerful X2-Flare on the Sun

Emerging sunspot AR2339 unleashed an intense X2-class solar flare on May 5 at approximately 22:11 UT. Radiation from the flare caused strong radio blackouts on the Pacific side of Earth, interfering with communications at frequencies below ~20 MHz. The blast also hurled a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) into space, but not towards Earth. This event could herald a sustained period of high solar activity, as AR2339 appears to be large and explosive. It seems that the quiet phase the Sun has experienced recently (see Dateline 30 April below) has ended. Click  here  for more information and updates.


Dateline -  30 April 2015 -  MESSENGER spacecraft uncovers secrets on Mercury

NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft crashed into Mercury on April 30, ending a years-long mission that made many unexpected discoveries about the innermost planet. Click  here  for some of MESSENGER's most surprising finds.


Dateline -  30 April 2015 -  New Horizons spacecraft detects surface features on Pluto, including a possible polar cap

Click  here  for a full report.


Dateline -  30 April 2015 -  Sun enters a quiet phase

Everyone knows that high solar activity has a profound effect on the space around Earth. Less well known is that "low" solar activity can be equally transformative. This week, the sun is plunging into a quiet state with almost no sunspots and a vanishing chance of flares. Click  here  to find out what this means.


Dateline -  30 April 2015 -  Volcanic ash cloud heads east

A 10 000 kilometre-long plume of sulphurous gas from Chile's Calbuco volcano is now crossing the Atlantic Ocean en route to Africa. Will it reach Australia? Click  here  for more.


Dateline -  30 April 2015 -  Microbes sent to the threshold of space

On April 28, microbes sent to the edge of space to test their response to cosmic radiation crash-landed in the California desert - and it did not go well for the microbes. Click  here  for more.


Dateline -  29 April 2015 -  Sahara dust feeds Amazon rain forest

The Amazon rainforest and the Sahara desert seem utterly different. Yet NASA satellites have discovered a surprising connection that intimately links these two disparate parts of our planet.    Full story     Video


Dateline -  23 April 2015 -  Volcanic lightning in Chile

The Calbuco volcano in southern Chile erupted yesterday. Two blasts in 24 hours on April 22 sent plumes of ash and sulphurous gas shooting at least 10 kilometres high. One of the eruptions occurred at night and put on a spectacular display of rare and mysterious volcanic lightning.  Click  here  for a picture of the lightning and a discussion of its underlying physics.


Dateline -  22 April 2015 -  John Harrison's Clock B is in the Guiness Book of World Records

250 years ago, John Harrison of the famous 'Longitude' story designed a pendulum clock that he claimed to be accurate to one second in 100 days. Now, in the 21st century, it has been built and tests at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich have shown it to be even more accurate, to five-eighths of a second in 100 days.    Full story      (Contributed by Matt)


Dateline -  21 April 2015 -  Want to name a landform on Pluto ?

When NASA's New Horizons spacecraft flies by Pluto this July, its high-resolution cameras will spot many new landforms on the dwarf planet's unexplored surface. They are all going to need names,and NASA is offering you the opportunity to help.    Full story


Dateline -  20 April 2015 -  Lyrids meteor shower

High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras this week when a solar wind stream and a faint CME are expected to hit Earth's magnetic field in quick succession. NOAA forecasters estimate a 45% to 65% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on April 21-22.

At the same time, Earth will be passing through a stream of debris from Comet Thatcher, source of the annual Lyrid meteor shower. Sky watchers are already seeing a smattering of late-night fireballs as Earth approaches the diffuse core of the debris stream. Meteor rates are expected to peak on April 22-23 with as many as 20 Lyrids per hour. Click  here  for observing tips and suggestions.


Dateline -  9 April 2015 -  Yellow balls in space

Citizen scientists scanning images from a NASA observatory have found "yellow balls" in space that may hold important clues to the mysteries of starbirth.    Full story     Video


Dateline -  3 April 2015 -  Total lunar eclipse on April 4

Sky watchers in the western Pacific can see a brief but beautiful lunar eclipse on Saturday night, April 4. The Moon will turn red, and possibly turquoise, too, as the lunar disc passes through the shadow of our planet. Totality will be brief, so it is important to be outside at the right moment, say 10 pm Eastern Standard Time in Queensland. Click  here  for viewing times and more information from Spaceweather, and  here  for information specific to eastern Australia.


Dateline -  19 March 2015 -  Total solar eclipse in the Arctic

On March 20, the first day of northern spring, Arctic sky watchers could witness something rare and wonderful: Northern Lights during a total eclipse of the sun. Earth's magnetic field is reverberating from a CME strike on March 17 that sparked the strongest geomagnetic storm of the current solar cycle. Days after the impact, aurorae are still dancing around the Arctic Circle. Those aurorae could emerge in broad daylight this Friday when the new Moon passes in front of the Arctic sun, producing a total eclipse visible from Svalbard, the Faroe Islands, and many ships at sea. Click  here  for a preview and updates during the eclipse.


Dateline -  17 March 2015 -  Severe geomagnetic storm

A coronal mass ejection (CME) hit the Earth's magnetic field during the early hours of March 17, triggering a magnetic disturbance that has escalated into the strongest geomagnetic storm of the current solar cycle (Kp=8). In the United States, during the hours before sunrise on St Patrick's Day, bright green skies appeared over multiple US states including Wisconsin, Washington, Minnesota, and the Dakotas. Aurorae were also seen in New Zealand, Tasmania and Victoria, and in New South Wales as far north as Goulburn. Please check  here  for pictures and updates on the progress of the storm.


Dateline -  7 March 2015 -  Active Sunspot

A sunspot has emerged near the sun's southeastern limb, and it is crackling with strong flares. The most powerful so far, an M9-class explosion on March 7, produced a moderately-strong radio blackout over the Pacific side of Earth. Click  here  for images and updates.


Dateline -  6 March 2015 -  Exploding star hints at how dark matter warps light in space

An exploding star has been seen by astronomers four separate times as a result of dark matter affecting the image, an Australian researcher has revealed. A team of international scientists studying space using the Hubble Telescope found a supernova explosion appeared multiple times in different places due to the impact of gravitation on light. Team member Brad Tucker from the Australian National University in Canberra said a cluster of galaxies and dark matter in front of the explosion had warped the way it looked. "So if you actually look at how the light has changed over time in each of those four images, it is exactly the same origin, so it has to be the same event," he said.  Read the full story  here .      (Contributed by Susheela)


Dateline -  5 March 2015 -  The first ever photograph of light existing as both a wave and particle at the same time

Scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne have captured on camera the first photograph of light behaving in the form of a wave and also as a particle simultaneously. This historic breakthrough shows incontrovertibly that light is both a wave and a particle at the same time.  Read the full story and watch the video  here .      (Contributed by Sean)


Dateline -  1 March 2015 -  Peculiar noctilucent clouds over Antarctica

The strange behaviour of noctilucent clouds over Antarctica in recent months has researchers on the trail of new teleconnections in Earth's atmosphere, which can alter weather and climate on a global scale.  Click  here  for the full story.


Dateline -  24 February 2015 -  Chinese rocket's spectacular re-entry

On the night of February 23-24, observers across the western half of North America witnessed a spectacular cluster of bright lights in the sky. It was the re-entry and disintegration of a Chinese rocket body. Coincidentally, a geomagnetic storm was in progress at the time and more than one photographer caught the rocket's debris cutting across curtains of Northern Lights.  Click  here  for photos and more information.


Dateline -  20 February 2015 -  Unusual comet has a close encounter with the Sun

Astronomers are scratching their heads over an unusual comet that is passing by the sun. The icy visitor to the inner solar system does not belong to any known family of sungrazing comets, and it appeared to be doomed as it made its plunge toward the Sun on February 19. Instead of disintegrating, however, the comet has emerged apparently intact, and could become a target for telescopes on Earth when it emerges from the Sun's glare in the weeks ahead. Images and updates may be found  here .


Dateline -  12 February 2015 -  Deep Space Climate Observatory launched

For years, space weather forecasters have worried about the aging ACE spacecraft, which provides early warnings of CMEs and other solar storms bearing down on Earth. Launched in 1997, ACE could fail at any moment, leaving us blind to incoming storms. On February 11, NOAA, NASA and the US Air Force launched a replacement - the Deep Space Climate Observatory. Read all about it  here  .


Dateline -  4 February 2015 -  Close encounter with Jupiter as it reaches opposition on February 7

This weekend, Jupiter is at its biggest, brightest, and closest to Earth for all of 2015.    Full story


Dateline -  30 January 2015 -  The strange ways fluids slosh on the International Space Station

Researchers are using a pair of robots to examine the strange way fluids slosh and bubble on the International Space Station.    Full story     Video


Dateline -  21 January 2015 -  Close approach of asteroid next week

Early next week, a large asteroid named 2004 BL86 will fly past the Earth-Moon system. There's no danger of a collision, but NASA radars will be monitoring the mountain-sized space rock as it passes by only 1.2 million kilometres (745 000 miles) away. Amateur astronomers can watch the flyby, too. Glowing like a 9th magnitude star, 2004 BL86 will be an easy target for backyard telescopes on the nights of closest approach, January 26-28. Click  here  for observing tips and more information.


Dateline -  9 January 2015 -  Magnetic storm on Comet Lovejoy ?

Everyone knows about geomagnetic storms on Earth, but did you know that comets can have them, too? Right now, a type of magnetic storm may be in progress in the tail of bright Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2), causing 'plasma blobs' and 'disconnection events' visible in amateur telescopes. Click  here  for images and more information.


Dateline -  7 January 2015 -  New image of the 'Pillars of Creation'

Recently, the Hubble Space Telescope revisited the famous 'Pillars of Creation' (the nebula + star cluster M16), providing astronomers with a sharper and wider view of the iconic star forming region. The image hints that the Pillars of Creation might also be 'pillars of destruction'.    Full story


Dateline -  7 January 2015 -  Unexpected geomagnetic storm

A surprise geomagnetic storm erupted during the early hours of January 7, sparking bright aurorae around both of Earth's poles. The storm may have been sparked by the arrival of a CME originally expected to miss our planet.  Click  here  for images and more information.


Dateline -  31 December 2014 -  A new explanation for terrestrial gamma-ray flashes

New research shows that terrestrial gamma-ray flashes arise from an unexpected diversity of thunderstorms storms and may be more common than previously thought.    Full story


Dateline -  31 December 2014 -  Good news on forests and carbon dioxide

A new NASA-led study shows that tropical forests may be absorbing far more carbon dioxide than many scientists thought, in response to rising atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas.    Full story


Dateline -  31 December 2014 -  New Comet Lovejoy is visible to the unaided eye

Last night, the writer was easily able to view Comet Lovejoy with the unaided eye as described in the report datelined 29 December below. It was quite spectacular in 7x50 binoculars, and is presently located in the constellation Lepus. Readers are encouraged to look for it, as it has been a while since we had a bright comet. The best time will be after the gibbous Moon has set, at about 1:30 am tonight. The comet will be to the left of the constellation Orion, 13 degrees to the south (left) of the bright star Rigel. Close to the third magnitude orange star Epsilon Leporis, Comet Lovejoy will be about 45 degrees above the western horizon at that time.    More     This ephemeris will give its daily position in Right Ascension and Declination.


Dateline -  30 December 2014 -  Dawn spacecraft begins approach to dwarf planet Ceres

NASA's ion-propelled Dawn spacecraft has begun its approach to Ceres, a Tasmania-sized dwarf planet never before visited by a spacecraft. Dawn is expected to enter orbit around Ceres in March, 2015.    Full story


Dateline -  29 December 2014 -  New Comet discovered by Brisbane amateur astronomer is brightening

The 'Christmas Comet' C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) continues to brighten, and now observers around the world are reporting seeing it with the unaided eye from dark-sky sites. Comet Lovejoy is a fine target for backyard telescopes, as is shown  here .  Its position just after midnight on January 1, 2015 will be in the constellation Lepus the Hare, just south of Orion's feet, between the third-magnitude stars Epsilon Leporis and Mu Leporis. The comet will proceed during January in a north-westerly direction through Eridanus, heading towards Aries. It will cross the celestial equator and enter Taurus on January 9, when it will be close to perihelion and at its brightest. It is at present shining at about magnitude 5, brighter than predicted. This should make it an easy target with binoculars or small telescope, and it might possibly be visible with the unaided eye from dark sites well away from city lights.    Ephemeris


Dateline -  20 December 2014 -  Massive X-flare on the Sun yesterday

Solar activity is high. A pair of large sunspots is crossing the centre of the solar disc, and both are crackling with flares. The strongest so far, an X1.8-class flare on December 20, caused a strong High Frequency radio blackout over the South Pacific and might have hurled a CME (coronal mass ejection) toward Earth.  Click  here  for more information and updates.


Dateline -  19 December 2014 -  Rosetta to swoop down on comet in February

The European Space Agency’s orbiting Rosetta spacecraft is expected to come to within 6.5 kilometres of the surface of comet 67P/ChuryumovGerasimenko in February 2015. The low flyby will be an opportunity for Rosetta to obtain imagery with a resolution of better than 10 centimetres per pixel.    Full story


Dateline -  19 December 2014 -  Southern Hemisphere carbon emissions rising

The first global maps of atmospheric carbon dioxide from NASA's new Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 mission show elevated carbon dioxide concentrations across the Southern Hemisphere from springtime biomass burning and hint at potential surprises to come.    Full story


Dateline -  19 December 2014 -  New evidence for a water reservoir on Mars

NASA and an international team of planetary scientists have found evidence in meteorites on Earth that indicates Mars has a distinct and global reservoir of water or ice near its surface.    Full story


Dateline -  16 December 2014 - Voyager 1 spacecraft buffeted by waves from Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) from the Sun

Since 2012, NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has experienced three 'tsunami waves' in interstellar space. The most recent, which reached the spacecraft earlier this year, is still propagating outward according to new data.    Full story


Dateline -  14 December 2014 - The theory that comets brought water to Earth not supported by Rosetta data

A popular theory holds that ocean water was brought to Earth by the ancient impacts of comets and asteroids. However, new data from the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft indicate that terrestrial water did not come from comets like 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.    Full story


Dateline -  12 December 2014 - Earth encounters debris from a rocky comet

Earth is passing through a stream of debris from 'rock comet' 3200 Phaethon, source of the annual Geminid meteor shower. Forecasters expect as many as 120 meteors per hour when the shower peaks on December 14.    Full story     Video     More


Dateline - 7 December 2014 -  New Horizons  wakes up on Pluto's doorstep

After a voyage of nearly nine years and three billion miles the farthest any space mission has ever travelled to reach its primary target NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft came out of hibernation on December 6 for its long-awaited encounter with the Pluto system in a year's time.    Full story     Video


Dateline - 6 December 2014 -  Astronauts face a growing peril from space radiation

According to a new study just published in the research journal Space Weather, astronauts face a growing peril from space radiation. Rising fluxes of cosmic rays inside the solar system place increasingly strict limits on the amount of time explorers can safely travel through interplanetary space.  Click  here  for more information and links to the complete study.


Dateline - 4 December 2014 -  Japan launches asteroid mission

On December 3, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched its Hayabusa2 mission to rendezvous with an asteroid, land a small probe plus three mini rovers on its surface, and then return samples to Earth. NASA and JAXA are cooperating on the science of the mission.     Full story


Dateline - 1 December 2014 -  Geminid meteor shower arrives early

Earth is entering a stream of debris from 'rock comet' 3200 Phaethon, source of the annual Geminid meteor shower. The shower is not expected to peak until December 14, but NASA meteor cameras are detecting Geminid fireballs over the USA two weeks early. Click  here  for images and updates.


Dateline - 24 November 2014 -  Volcanoes on the Moon

The Moon might not be as dead as it looks. Researchers using NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter have found signs of geologically-recent volcanic eruptions dotting the lunar landscape.    Full story     Video


Dateline - 12 November 2014 -  Philae spacecraft makes historic landing on comet

Rosetta mission’s safe landing gives scientists their first chance to ride a comet and study up close what happens as it gets closer to the Sun.  Click  here  for first news report.


Dateline - 12 November 2014 -  An image of the birth of a new planetary system

Scientists at the Atacama Large Millimetre Array (ALMA) in northern Chile have released an image which shows the tell-tale signs of the formation of a new planetary system out of a disc of gas and dust surrounding a new star, HL Tauri.   Click  here  for more information.     (Contributed by Richard)


Dateline - 7 November 2014 -  Martian meteor shower

NASA and European spacecraft have detected evidence of a spectacular meteor shower on Mars caused by the close approach of Comet Siding Spring last month. If a human had been standing on the Red Planet at the time, they might have seen thousands of meteors per hour followed by a widespread yellow afterglow that lasted for days.  Click  here  for more information.


Dateline - 6 November 2014 -  A new theory about galaxies

Findings from a NASA rocket are redefining what scientists think of as galaxies. Galaxies may not have a set boundary of stars, but instead stretch out to great distances, forming a vast, interconnected sea of stars.    Full story


Dateline - 3 November 2014 -  How do you land on a comet?

The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft is about to attempt something "ridiculously difficult" - landing a probe on the surface of a speeding comet.    Full story     Video


Dateline - 30 October 2014 -  Size of the ozone hole

The Antarctic ozone hole reached its annual peak size on September 11, according to scientists from NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The size of this year’s hole was 24.1 million square kilometres (9.3 million square miles) an area roughly the size of North America.    Full story


Dateline - 19 October 2014 -  X-Flare on Sun

Solar activity increased sharply on October 19 when huge sunspot AR2192 unleashed an X1-class solar flare. The blast produced an HF radio blackout on the dayside of Earth and it likely hurled a CME into space. Check  here  for pictures of the flare and more information about possible Earth-effects.


Dateline - 17 October 2014 -  Orionid meteor shower encounters the Earth this week

Earth is entering a stream of debris from Halley's Comet, parent of the annual Orionid meteor shower. Forecasters expect the shower to peak on Tuesday, October 21 and Wednesday, October 22.    Full story


Dateline - 17 October 2014 -  Solar eclipse next week, but not visible from Australia

On October 23, the Moon will pass in front of the sun, off-centre, producing a partial solar eclipse visible in most of the United States. The maximum phase of the eclipse will only be visible near the North Pole. No part of the eclipse will be seen from the southern hemisphere.    Full story     Video


Dateline - 17 October 2014 -  Large sunspot appears

A large and active sunspot is emerging over the sun's southeastern limb. Only two to three days ago, this active region unleashed multiple flares and hurled a massive CME over the edge of the sun. If these eruptions continue apace, solar activity could sharply increase in the days ahead as the sunspot turns to face Earth. Click  here  for photos and updates.


Dateline - 16 October 2014 -  Comet Siding Spring due to arrive at Mars

This weekend, Comet Siding Spring (C/2013 A1) will make a historically close approach to Mars. Satellites and Mars Rovers will get an eye-full as the green comet passes less than 140 000 kilometres above the Red Planet's surface. No one knows what will happen. Possible side-effects of the flyby include a Martian meteor shower and aurorae. More information and amateur images of the comet approaching Mars may be found  here .

NASA has arranged for its three Mars orbiters (Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey and MAVEN) to be located behind Mars during the close flyby of Comet Siding Spring next Monday (AEST), to protect them from comet dust. The comet's nucleus is expected to shed material hurtling at about 56 kilometres per second, relative to Mars and Mars-orbiting spacecraft. NASA's aim is to protect its Mars orbiters, while preserving opportunities to gather valuable scientific data.    More 


Dateline - 10 October 2014 -  First light for MAVEN

NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN Mission (MAVEN) is a  space probe designed to study the Martian atmosphere while orbiting Mars. Mission goals include determining how the Martian atmosphere and water, presumed to have once been present on Mars in large quantities as on Earth, were lost over time. MAVEN has reached Mars and it is beaming back "First Light" images of the Red Planet's upper atmosphere. The data could help researchers understand what transformed Mars from a hospitable planet billions of years ago into a desiccated wasteland today.    Full story     Video


Dateline - 9 October 2014 -  NASA spacecraft and Mars Rovers prepare to observe a close comet

NASA spacecraft and rovers are gearing up to observe a once-in-a-lifetime flyby of Mars by Comet C/2013 A1, also known as Comet Siding Spring, on Sunday, October 19. The comet will pass within about 139 500 kilometres (87 000 miles) of the Red Planet - less than half the distance between Earth and our Moon and less than one-tenth the distance of any known comet flyby of Earth.    Full story     Video

Chart Copyright NASA, 2014


Dateline - 3 October 2014 -  Stratosphere affected by solar storm

Stratospheric radiation levels are returning to normal, according to a Space Weather Buoy launched on September 28 by students in California. This follows a mid-September drop in ionising radiation caused, ironically, by a strong solar storm and CME strike. Data and a discussion of the phenomena associated with this event may be found  here .

Dateline - 24 September 2014 -  A giant among Earth's satellites

The launch of ISS-RapidScat onboard SpaceX-4 has kickstarted a new era for the International Space Station as a giant Earth-observing satellite.    Full story     Video


Dateline - 22 September 2014 -  NASA's MAVEN spacecraft reaches Mars

On Sunday, September 21, NASA's MAVEN spacecraft successfully entered Mars orbit where it now will prepare to study the Red Planet's upper atmosphere as never done before.    Full story     Video


Dateline - 11 September 2014 -  Jellyfish flames on the ISS

Astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) report seeing flames that behave like jellyfish. Today's story features must-see video of the microgravity phenomenon.     Full story     Video


Dateline - 10 September 2014 -  Powerful X-Flare on Sun aimed at Earth

The active sunspot AR2158 erupted on September 10, producing a strong X1.6-class solar flare. Because the sunspot is directly facing Earth, this is a geo-effective event. HF radio blackouts and other communications disturbances have already been observed on the day-lit side of Earth. Click  here  for more information and updates about the possibility of an Earth-directed CME and geomagnetic storms in the days ahead.


Dateline - 4 September 2014 -  Asteroid close encounter on Monday morning

On Monday, 8 September, a house-sized asteroid named '2014 RC' will fly through the Earth-Moon system approximately 40 000 kilometres from our planet. At closest approach, the space rock will be almost as close as some of our geosynchronous satellites. It will be at its closest at 4:18 am, when it will be above New Zealand.  At magnitude 11.5 it will be a faint telescopic object, speeding through the constellation of Pisces. Click  here  for more information.


Dateline - 4 September 2014 -  Our Galaxy's position in the local supercluster of galaxies

For the first time, scientists have pinpointed where our Galaxy stands amongst thousands of other galaxies in our home supercluster. The new map shows beautiful feathery strings linked together with the Milky Way galaxy placed on the edge of the newly named Laniakea supercluster, home to 100 000 other galaxies. The relationship with the Great Attractor is also shown in a video attachment.     Full story     (Contributed by Tim)


Dateline - 31 August 2014 -  Radical new theory could kill the multiverse hypothesis

Some physicists are saying that perhaps the fundamental description of the universe does not include the concepts of 'mass' and 'length', implying that at its core, nature lacks a sense of scale.     Full story     (Contributed by Sean)


Dateline - 26 August 2014 -  Is the Earth inside a supernova remnant ?

A NASA sounding rocket has confirmed that the solar system is inside an ancient supernova remnant. Life on Earth survived despite the nearby blasts.     Full story     Video


Dateline - 26 August 2014 -  Candidate comet landing sites identified

The European Space Agency's Rosetta mission has chosen five candidate landing sites on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for its Philae lander. Philae's descent to the comet's nucleus, scheduled for this November, will be the first such landing ever attempted.      Full story


Dateline - 25 August 2014 -  New Horizons crosses the orbit of Neptune

NASA’s Pluto-bound New Horizons spacecraft traversed the orbit of Neptune today, exactly 25 years after Voyager 2's encounter with Neptune on August 25, 1989. This is New Horizons' last major crossing en route to becoming the first probe to make a close encounter with distant Pluto on July 14, 2015.     Full story


Dateline - 24 August 2014 -  Magnificent solar flare

A visually beautiful solar flare erupted from the east limb of the Sun today. Extreme UV radiation briefly ionised the upper layers of Earth's atmosphere; otherwise, our planet was not in the line of fire. The responsible sunspot will turn toward Earth in the days ahead, boosting chances for geoeffective solar activity as the week unfolds.  Click  here  for photos and more information.


Dateline - 18 August 2014 -  Advances in measuring the size of exoplanets

Astronomers are not only discovering planets around distant suns, they are also starting to measure those worlds with astonishing precision. The diameter of a super-Earth named 'Kepler 93 b' is now known to within an accuracy of 1%.     Full story     Video


Dateline - 12 August 2014 -  Comet heads for Mars

Comet Siding Spring is about to fly historically close to Mars. The encounter could spark Martian auroras, a meteor shower, and other unpredictable effects. Whatever happens, NASA's fleet of Mars satellites will have a ringside seat.     Full story     Video


Dateline - 6 August 2014 -  Rosetta spacecraft has arrived at Comet

Today, after a decade-long journey chasing its target, the European Space Agency's Rosetta probe became the first spacecraft to rendezvous with a comet, 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.     Full story


Dateline - 6 August 2014 -  Historic Comet rendezvous today

The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft has reached Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and is preparing to go into orbit around the comet's core. This is an historic event. After Rosetta goes into orbit, it will accompany the comet around the Sun, observing its activity from point-blank range. Moreover, in November, Rosetta will drop a lander onto the comet's strange surface.  Click  here  for more information and links to a live webcast of today's rendezvous.


Dateline - 4 August 2014 -  Meteor activity intensifies

Meteor activity is increasing as Earth plunges deeper into the debris stream of Comet Swift-Tuttle, source of the annual Perseid meteor shower. Last night alone, NASA cameras recorded more than a dozen Perseid fireballs along with one sporadic bolide (exploding meteor) that might have dropped pieces of itself over the southeastern USA.  Click  here  for video and observing tips.


Dateline - 2 August 2014 -  Amazing new photo of ESA's Rosetta comet

As the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft closes to within 1000 kilometres of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the Rosetta science team has released a new image and temperature measurements of the comet's core. The temperature data show that 67P is too hot to be covered in ice and must instead have a dark, dusty crust.     Full story



Dateline - 29 July 2014 -  ATV Georges Lemaître heads for the International Space Station

 The European Space Agency's last Automated Transfer Vehicle, ATV Georges Lemaître, was launched to the International Space Station from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana on the morning of 30 July (Australian Eastern Standard Time). Named after the priest who first thought of the Big Bang Theory, its job is to provision the ISS.  Click  here  for details of the mission.  


Dateline - 28 July 2014 -  Another milestone for Mars rover Opportunity

NASA's Opportunity Mars rover, which landed on the Red Planet in 2004, now holds the off-Earth driving record of 25+ miles or 40 kilometres, and is not far from completing a full extraterrestrial marathon.     Full story


Dateline - 27 July 2014 -  Fireballs kick off annual Perseid meteor shower

Fireballs detected last weekend by NASA meteor cameras have indicated the start of the annual Perseid meteor shower. The shower's peak isn't due until August 13, but now might be the best time to look. Find out why  here .


Dateline - 24 July 2014 -  Space probe approaches comet

As the European Space Agency's Rosetta probe approaches Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for an August rendezvous, the comet's core is coming into sharper focus. Today ESA released a new set of images and a must-see 3D model.     Full story


Dateline - 24 July 2014 -  Mysterious X-ray signal from deep space

A mysterious X-ray signal from the Perseus cluster of galaxies, which researchers say cannot be explained by known physics, could be a key clue to the nature of Dark Matter.     Full story     Video


Dateline - 17 July 2014 -  ABC program tonight, Catalyst, 8 pm

It's about the meteorite that hit Russia last year and due to the time of day and the Russians' high use of dash cams, scientists were able to track it and study it.


Dateline - 17 July 2014 -  A great clip from Carl Sagan of 'Cosmos' fame

Video     (Contributed by Tim)


Dateline - 16 July 2014 -  Dark matter and dark energy - 'Stalking the Shadow Universe'

It has long been theorised that dark matter provides the scaffolding for stars and galaxies. Now, scientists are using computer simulations to show us the universe we can’t see.  (Contributed by Mark)     Video 


Dateline - 14 July 2014 -  Everything you need to know about dark matter



Dateline - 14 July 2014 -  New Horizons spacecraft only a year away from Pluto

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is only a year away from its rendezvous with Pluto. Researchers are buzzing with anticipation as NASA prepares to encounter a new world for the first time in decades.     Full story     Video


Dateline - 10 July 2014 -  Three 'Supermoons' in a row

The winter of 2014 will be bathed in moonlight as three perigee 'supermoons' occur in consecutive months: July 12, August 10, and September 10.     Full story     Video


Dateline - 2 July 2014 -  Saturn's moon Titan has a very salty ocean

Scientists analysing data from NASA’s Cassini mission have found evidence of an ocean inside Saturn's largest moon, Titan, which might be as salty as the Earth's Dead Sea.       Full story


Dateline - 2 July 2014 -  NASA launches new Carbon Observatory

NASA has successfully launched its first spacecraft dedicated to studying atmospheric carbon dioxide, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2). OCO-2 will soon begin a minimum two-year mission to locate Earth's sources and sinks of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the leading human-produced greenhouse gas responsible for warming our planet.     Full story     Video


Dateline - 25 June 2014 -  Sprites over the USA

This week, backyard photographers have been observing gigantic red sprites flickering over the USA. These electrical discharges, which occur high above thunderclouds, resemble enormous jellyfish and their glow can often be seen hundreds of miles away. A specimen highlighted on today's edition of Space Weather would dwarf Mount Everest. For more information and observing tips click  here .


Dateline - 24 June 2014 -  Carbon emitters will be watched from space

NASA is about to launch a satellite dedicated to the study of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO-2) will map global CO2 sources and sinks, and help researchers predict the future of climate change.      Full story     Video


Dateline - 18 June 2014 -  Lasers from space

In early June, a laser beam lanced out of the night sky over California, heralding a breakthrough in space communications.     Full story     Video


Dateline - 18 June 2014 -  Live video feed from the International Space Station

Have you ever wished you could enjoy the astronauts' view of Earth from the Space Station? Now, you can. Just click  here , crank it up to its highest resolution, and watch Earth spin by. It's mesmerizing. The Station moves, Earth spins, clouds shift, and Station's orbit drifts westward over time.     (Contributed by Andrew)


Dateline - 18 June 2014 -  Watch a star explode

The death of star V838 Monocretis has been captured by the Hubble Space Telescope.  It was not a nova or supernova, but something completely different. Click here to see it erupt.     (Contributed by Sean)


Dateline - 10 June 2014 -  The Solar Maximum has arrived

NASA and NOAA agree: Solar Max has arrived, but this 'mini Max' is not like any other solar maximum of the Space Age.      Full story     Video


Dateline - 3 June 2014 -  Space probe to land on comet

Later this year, Europe's Rosetta probe will orbit and land on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. New images of the comet show that it will be a lively place when Rosetta arrives.     Full story     Video


Dateline - 30 May 2014 -  The race to find absolute zero at the turn of the 20th century

This is a very interesting article on the work by Lord Kelvin and others to find the coldest temperature possible.  (contributed by Sean)     Full article


Dateline - 28 May 2014 -  CSIRO's budget cut by Abbott government - Mopra Radio Telescope closes down

Alarm bells rang in scientific institutions around Australia last year when the Abbott government was elected. Abbott has always had a low opinion of the value of science and scientists, especially regarding climate change, but he revealed his priorties by appointing a Minister for Sport and failing to appoint a Minister for Science - the first such omission since 1931. Now Hockey's razor gang has slashed the CSIRO's budget. One of the first casualties is the Mopra Radio Telescope near the Siding Spring Observatory.    Full story     More


Dateline - 15 May 2014 -  Jupiter's Great Red Spot is shrinking

New observations from the Hubble Space Telescope confirm that Jupiter's Great Red Spot is shrinking. The behemoth storm, larger than the Earth, is now at its smallest size ever measured.     Full story


Dateline - 13 May 2014 -  Global warming is melting Antarctic ice, and nothing can stop it

A new study by researchers at NASA and the University of California, Irvine, finds a rapidly melting section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet appears to be in irreversible decline, with nothing to stop the glaciers in this area from melting into the sea.     Full story     Video


Dateline - 9 May 2014 -  Astronomers create the first realistic virtual universe

This is a sophisticated computer program to simulate the evolution of the universe in high fidelity. It includes both normal matter and dark matter.  Click  here  to watch it.    (Contributed by Sean)  


Dateline - 3 May 2014 -  Meteor Watch

Earth is entering a stream of debris from Halley's Comet, source of the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower. Forecasters expect the shower to peak on the night of May 5-6 with as many as 60 meteors per hour in the southern hemisphere and half that number in the north.  Click  here  for more information and observing tips.


Dateline - 25 April 2014 -  A cold, close neighbour of the Sun

NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and Spitzer Space Telescope have discovered a dim, star-like body that surprisingly is as frosty as Earth's North Pole. This 'brown dwarf' is only 7.2 light years away, making it one of the sun's nearest neighbours.    Full story


Dateline - 22 April 2014 -  Current Meteor Shower

Earth is passing through a stream of debris from ancient Comet Thatcher, source of the annual Lyrid meteor shower. According to radar data, the shower is peaking today with meteor rates as high as 15 per hour.   Click  here  for more information.


Dateline - 18 April 2014 -  An idea for detecting exoplanets

It's always a problem that imaging exoplanets around a star is made almost impossible because the bright light of the star overwhelms the feeble point of light that may be a planet. This is an idea for placing a large circular shade in space that will occult the star as seen from a space telescope, so that any faint planets may be detected.    Click  here  for video.    (Contributed by Tim)  


Dateline - 17 April 2014 - Kepler discovers first Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of another star

Using NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered the first Earth-size planet orbiting a star in the 'habitable zone' - the range of distance from a star where liquid water might exist on the surface of an orbiting planet. This zone is also called the 'Goldilocks Zone', where the temperature is not too cold and not too hot, but 'just right' for life as we know it. In fact, the new planet could be a twin of the Earth. Whether it has developed life forms, whether any of these forms are intelligent, and whether such intelligence is present at this moment in the billions of years the universe has existed, are matters for speculation.    Full story


Dateline - 16 April 2014 - Unexpected teleconnections in noctilucent clouds

NASA's AIM spacecraft is discovering unexpected 'teleconnections' in Earth's atmosphere that link weather and climate across vast distances.    Full story     Video


Dateline - 14 April 2014 - A new moon for Saturn ?

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has documented the formation of a small icy object within the rings of Saturn that may be a new moon.    Full story


Dateline - 13 April 2014 - Total lunar eclipse on Tuesday evening, April 15

On Tuesday evening, April 15, the full Moon will pass through the shadow of Earth, producing a colourful lunar eclipse. It will be orange rather than red. At the moment, Earth's stratosphere is not dusty enough produce a shadow with the deep red hues of blood. Whatever colour it turns out to be, the eclipse will be visible from North and South America, Australia and New Zealand.

South-east Queensland times:

The Moon will enter the Moon's umbra at 3:59 pm when it is still below the horizon. The total phase of the eclipse will begin at 5:08 pm, when the Moon will be completely immersed in the Earth's shadow. The fully eclipsed Moon will rise above the theoretical horizon at 5:28 pm, looking a dull red in colour. Maximum eclipse will occur at 5:46 pm. The first magnitude star Spica will be clearly seen three degrees above the Moon. Totality will end at 6:23 pm, and the Moon will begin to move out of the umbra. This partial phase of the eclipse will end at 7:32 pm. The penumbral phase of the eclipse will end at 8:36 pm, and the show will be over.  After a lunar eclipse, the Full Moon looks brighter than normal, as the Sun, Moon and Earth are so perfectly aligned.

Click  here  for observing tips and more information.

LIVE WEBCAST OF THE ECLIPSE: Got clouds? No problem. The lunar eclipse will be broadcast live on the web by the Coca-Cola Science Center at Columbus State University in Georgia. Click  here .


Dateline - 3 April 2014 - The underground ocean of Enceladus

NASA's Cassini spacecraft and Deep Space Network have uncovered evidence that Saturn's moon Enceladus harbours a large underground ocean, furthering scientific interest in the moon as a potential home to extraterrestrial microbes.    Full story


Dateline - 1 April 2014 - Arctic sea ice is melting more each year

A new study shows that the length of the melt season for Arctic sea ice is growing by several days each decade. This is allowing the Arctic Ocean to absorb enough additional solar radiation in some places to melt as much as four feet of the Arctic ice cap's thickness.    Full story


Dateline - 28 March 2014 - Mars approaches opposition

Dust off your telescope. Earth and Mars are converging for a beautiful close encounter on April 9, an event astronomers call 'the opposition of Mars'.    Full story     Video


Dateline - 17 March 2014 - First detection of gravitational waves ?

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics has reported that the BICEP2 (Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarisation - 2nd generation) 26 cm microwave telescope located at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station has made the first detection of swirling ripples in the cosmic microwave background, that might be proof of Alan Guth's theory that the universe 'inflated' at a speed faster than light in the instant after the Big Bang. Click  here  for more.     (Contributed by Tim)


Dateline - 9 March 2014 - The story behind the 'picture of the century'

Click  here  for a video giving the story behind 'Earthrise' - the famous picture of the Earth rising above the Moon's horizon taken by the crew of Apollo 8 in December 1968. It includes actual images and sound from the mission.     (Contributed by Tim)


Dateline -  6 March 2014:   Asteroid disintegrates

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has recorded the never-before-seen break-up of an asteroid into as many as 10 smaller pieces.    Full story


Dateline -  26 February 2014:   New weather satellite to be launched tomorrow

NASA and JAXA are about to launch a new satellite that can see through storms, tracking rain and snow around the globe better than any previous observatory. The Global Precipitation Measurement Core Observatory is scheduled to lift off from Japan on February 27.    Full story     Video


Dateline -  26 February 2014:   Lots of new worlds found

Today, NASA announced a breakthrough addition to the catalogue of new planets. Researchers using Kepler have confirmed 715 new worlds, almost quadrupling the number of planets previously confirmed by the planet-hunting spacecraft. Some of the new worlds are similar in size to Earth and orbit in the habitable zone of their parent stars.    Full story     Video


Dateline -  19 February 2014:   Cores of supernovae 'slosh around' before exploding

New data from a NASA X-ray observatory shows that the cores of supernovas probably slosh around before detonating. This helps solve a longstanding mystery about how massive stars explode.    Full story


Dateline -  14 February 2014:   Mars rover solves 'doughnut' riddle

What if a rock that looked like a jelly doughnut suddenly appeared on Mars? That's just what happened in front of Mars rover Opportunity last month. Researchers have since determined that the 'doughnut' is a piece of a larger rock broken and moved by the rover's wheels in early January.    Full story


Dateline -  14 February 2014:   International Space Station is now complete

With the ISS (International Space Station) no longer "under construction," the world's most advanced orbital laboratory is open for business. The station has just received a 10-year extension from NASA, giving researchers the time they need to take full advantage of its unique capabilities.    Full story     Video


Dateline -  7 February 2014:   Severe drought in California

California is experiencing an extreme drought--by some measures the deepest in more than a century. NASA researchers are investigating the underlying causes as satellites, aircraft, and high-altitude balloons collect sobering images of the desiccating landscape.    Full story     Video


Dateline -  4 February 2014:   The Kepler Space Observatory finds a wobbly planet

Imagine living on a planet with seasons so erratic you would hardly know whether to wear Bermuda shorts or a heavy overcoat. That is the situation on a weird, wobbly world found by NASA's Kepler space telescope. The planet wobbles wildly on its spin axis, much like a child's top.     Full story    

The Earth also wobbles, but very slowly. It takes 26 000 years for one complete circular wobble. The main effect of this wobble, called 'libration', is that the celestial poles - the north and south places in the sky towards which the Earth's axis is pointing - are not completely fixed but drift around the sky in a huge circle of about 47 degrees diameter every 26 000 years.  This has meant that when the Egyptians built the Great Pyramid and aligned it on their Pole Star, that star was Thuban. Since then, the North Celestial Pole has moved away from Thuban, and is currently near a different star, Polaris. The ancients knew about this drift, and Hipparchus named it 'precession of the equinoxes' in the second century before Christ. It means that the celestial grid of Right Ascension and Declination drifts slowly against the star patterns, and star charts must be redrawn every 25 years to account for this movement and correct the star positions.


Dateline -  30 January 2014:   The coldest spot in the universe ?

NASA researchers are planning to create the coldest spot in the known Universe - inside the International Space Station. Their atomic refrigerator, known as the 'Cold Atom Lab', could lead to the discovery of new forms of matter and novel quantum phenomena.    Full story     Video


Dateline -  29 January 2014:   Solar "eclipse" on January 30, but it can only be seen from space

Beginning at 11:31 pm tonight, Thursday, January 30 (Queensland time) the Moon will pass in front of the Sun, producing an eclipse that can be seen only from space. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory will record the 2.5 hour lunar transit. Tune in  here  to see pictures during the event.


Dateline -  23 January 2014:   NASA's rover Opportunity celebrates 10 years on Mars with a selfie

Opportunity landed on the Red Planet on January 25, 2004, bouncing off the surface while surrounded by airbags before coming to a halt and taking a look around. Since then it has covered 38.7 kilometres of the rocky Martian surface, and taken more than 170 000 images and relayed them back to Earth using the satellites NASA has in orbit.    Full story and pictures     (Contributed by Sean) 


Dateline -  22 January 2014:   Water found on the dwarf planet Ceres

Scientists using the Herschel space observatory have made the first definitive detection of water vapour on the largest and roundest object in the asteroid belt, dwarf planet Ceres.    Full story


Dateline -  21 January 2014:   Global temperatures are rising

NASA scientists say 2013 tied with 2009 and 2006 for the seventh warmest year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. With the exception of 1998, the 10 warmest years in the 134-year record all have occurred since 2000, with 2010 and 2005 ranking as the warmest years on record.    Full story


Dateline -  14 January 2014:   New Horizons spacecraft is approaching Pluto

Eight years after it left Earth, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is approaching Pluto. The encounter begins less than a year from now.    Full story     Video


Dateline -  11 January 2014:   Venus at inferior conjunction

Yesterday, January 11, Venus passed through inferior conjunction. That means it was located almost directly between Earth and the Sun. Around the world amateur astronomers are taking special precautions to avert eye damage as they photograph Venus passing by the sun in broad daylight. Click  here  to see their amazing photos.


Dateline -  10 January 2014:   Starting fire with water

Astronauts on the ISS (International Space Station) are experimenting with a form of water that has a strange property - it can help start a fire. This fundamental physics investigation could have down-to-Earth benefits such as clean-burning municipal waste disposal and improved saltwater purification.    Full story     Video


Dateline -  7 January 2014:   Powerful sunspot erupts

One of the largest sunspots in years, AR1944, has turned toward Earth and is crackling with strong flares. So far on January 7, the active region has produced M7- and X1-class eruptions, and more appear to be in the offing. As this alert is being issued, analysts are waiting for more data from solar observatories to clarify the possibility of CME impacts and geomagnetic storms in the days ahead. For updates, click  here .


Dateline -  30 December 2013:   Must-see sunset phenomenon

Like the Moon, Venus has phases, and this week the second planet from the sun is a whisper-thin crescent. The phenomenon is easy to observe. Venus is so bright, you can see it at sunset even before the sky fades to black (hint: face southwest). A pair of binoculars or a small telescope reveals Venus's crescent shape. Click  here  for photos and more information.


Dateline -  24 December 2013:   Christmas conjunction

Stationed at the far side of the sun, NASA's STEREO-B probe is observing a rare conjunction of planets. Venus, Jupiter, and Earth are aligning to produce a 'Christmas Star' for the distant spacecraft. Click  here  for images.


Dateline -  9 December 2013:   The coldest place on Earth

Earth-orbiting satellites have found the coldest place on Earth. It's a group of hollows in Antarctica where temperatures can dip below minus 133.6 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 92 degrees Celsius) on a clear winter night.   Full story


Dateline -  9 December 2013:   Meteor outburst

The Canadian Meteor Orbit Radar is detecting echoes from a meteor outburst in the constellation Andromeda, in progress on December 8. It appears to be debris from old Comet Biela, which broke apart in the 19th century. Observers should be alert for Andromedid meteors on the night of December 9-10. More information may be found  here .


Dateline -  4 December 2013:   What happened to Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) ?

In full view of the NASA-ESA solar physics fleet, Comet ISON disintegrated when it flew through the sun's atmosphere on Thanksgiving Day. Researchers are still marveling at the images and the scientific data they contain.   Full story     Video


Dateline -  1 December 2013:   Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) now appears as a fading cloud of dust

Comet ISON is fading fast as it recedes from the Sun. Whatever piece of the comet briefly survived its November 28 brush with solar fire is now dissipating in a cloud of dust. Click  here  to view a 4-day movie covering the event.


Dateline -  29 November 2013:   The reports of Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON)'s demise have been greatly exaggerated  (pace Mark Twain)

Cancel the funeral, Comet ISON is back from the dead. Yesterday, November 28, Comet ISON flew through the sun's atmosphere and appeared to disintegrate before the cameras of several NASA and ESA spacecraft. This prompted reports of the comet's demise. Today, it seems that the comet might have survived.  Click  here  for images and updates.


Dateline -  28 November 2013:   C/2012 S1 (ISON) may have been destroyed

Evidence is mounting that Comet ISON did not survive its brush with the sun on November 28. The SOHO coronagraph images show the comet apparently disintegrating, while first-look images from the Solar Dynamics Observatory did not detect the comet moving along its expected path through the sun's atmosphere. Click  here .for movies and updates.  Comets C/2013 R1 (LOVEJOY), C/2012 X1 (LINEAR) and the old reliable comet 2P ENCKE (the latter is periodic, and returns to the Sun every 3.3 years) are still with us.


Dateline -  27 November 2013:  'Rock Comet' 3200 Phaeton develops a tail

'Rock comet' 3200 Phaethon has sprouted a tail, confirming that this mysterious object is the source of the annual Geminid meteor shower.    Full story     Video


Dateline - 25 November 2013:  Comets being buffeted by the solar wind

NASA's STEREO-A spacecraft is obtaining some marvellous footage of Comet ISON and Comet Encke being buffeted by gusts of solar wind. So far the two comets have avoided a direct strike by a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection), but a solar storm in the days ahead could have dramatic effects. For movies and more, click  here .


Dateline -  24 November 2013:  More amazing comet pictures

On November 28, Comet ISON will have a perilous close encounter with the sun. In today's  story  from NASA, experts discuss what might happen if the comet is hit by a solar storm at point-blank range. In 2007 such a storm blasted Comet Encke's tail away from the nucleus - see the movie  here  .


Dateline -  21 November 2013:  Amazing comet pictures

Comet ISON is plunging toward the Sun for a perilous close encounter in a week's time. Even experts aren't sure if the furiously vapourising comet can survive its passage through the solar atmosphere on November 28. The latest pictures from Earth are coming in now - and they are amazing. If the comet doesn't survive its passage through the Sun's corona, they may be the last. The comet, sporting a green head and streaming tail, is entering the rosy glow of dawn not far from the planet Mercury. Click  here  to see the latest images from around the world.


Dateline -  16 November 2013:  Comet ISON update

Comet ISON is now ten times brighter than it was on November 14 when an unexpected outburst propelled the sundiver into the realm of naked-eye visibility. Observers around the world confirm seeing the comet as a faint smudge low in the eastern sky before sunrise. Backyard telescopes reveal a riot of gaseous streamers trailing behind the comet's brightening (and possibly fragmenting) core. With almost two weeks to go before ISON plunges into the sun's atmosphere, it is already one of the most beautiful and active comets in years. Current images and observing tips may be found by clicking  here .   More images are available  here .  (Contributed by Sean)


Dateline -  15 November 2013:  Two comets have a rare encounter with Mercury

On November 18-20, two comets (ISON and Encke) are going to fly by the planet Mercury in quick succession. NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft will have a front-row seat for the rare double encounter. Look due east with binoculars soon after 4 am, below the star Spica.     Full story     Video


Dateline -  15 November 2013:  More information on Comet ISON

Comet ISON is currently travelling through the constellation Virgo. It will be very close to the first magnitude star Spica on November 17-18. Moving rapidly as it approaches the Sun, it will pass just to the south of the third magnitude star Zuben Elgenubi on November 23 and 24. At that time it will be only a handspan from the Sun. These stars can be found by using charts, a planisphere, or a mobile phone app such as Google Sky Map.  The comet will reach the head of Scorpius (where the Sun is located) in the last few days of November. Swinging around the Sun near the star Graffias, it will then head north, passing the third magnitude star Yed Prior on December 5. It will continue north through the constellation Sertpens, and will pass between Corona Borealis and Hercules on December 18. By the end of December, Comet ISON will be too far north to see from the Sunshine Coast. A sky chart is available  here .  


Dateline -  15 November 2013:  Comet ISON brightens as it approaches the Sun

Observers around the world are reporting a sharp increase in the brightness of sundiving Comet ISON. Formerly dim, it is now on the threshold of naked-eye visibility. Comet ISON is plunging toward the sun for a perilous pass through the solar atmosphere on November 29 AEST. This could be the first of many brightening events as intensifying solar heat erodes material away from the comet's nucleus. For more information and updates, click here .  In today's story from NASA, a leading expert describes some possible outcomes for the sundiving comet - from premature disintegration to spectacular survival.     Full story


Dateline -  9 November 2013:  Comet ISON is now visible in binoculars, but there's a brighter one near it

Observers around the world report that Comet ISON is now visible in binoculars. The comet is brightening as it plunges toward the sun for a perilous pass through the solar atmosphere on November 29 Australian time. It is not, however, the brightest comet in the pre-dawn sky. As November progresses, there is a rare gathering of four comets rising in the east before dawn.  Click  here  to find out which one is outshining media-favourite ISON.


Dateline -  8 November 2013:  High solar activity

This week, Jupiter-sized sunspot AR1890 unleashed two brief but intense X-class solar flares and numerous M-class solar flares. More eruptions are in the offing as the sunspot turns to directly face Earth over this weekend. Click  here  for more information.


Dateline -  8 November 2013:  Update on Comet ISON

Comet ISON is now inside the orbit of Earth and is racing towards the Sun, which it will reach in three weeks. Click  here  for more information, photographs and a movie showing it travelling across the stellar background.


Dateline - 7 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.    Full story


Dateline -  2 November 2013:  Total solar eclipse (not visible from Australia)

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  here  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.     Full story


Dateline -  25 October 2013:  Solar activity is high and intensifying

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  here .


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  here ), 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  here  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  here  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  here  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  here  for more information and updates.


Dateline -  24 September 2013:  Amateur astronomers spot Comet ISON

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.    Full story     Video


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  here  for updates and commentary.


Dateline -  12 September 2013:  Voyager 1 has left the Solar System

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.    Full story


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 highlighted  here ..


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.    Full story     Video


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.     Full story


Dateline -  3 September 2013:  Tenuous lunar atmosphere to be studied

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.     Full story     Video


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 available  here .


Dateline -  23 August 2013:  Comet ISON to fly by Mars on October 1

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.     Full story     Video


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  here .


Dateline -  17 August 2013:  The strange attraction of 'hot Jupiters'

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.     Full story     Video


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.    Full story


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. Click  here  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  here .


Dateline -  5 August 2013:  The Sun's magnetic field is about to flip

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.    Full story     Video


Dateline -  3 August 2013:  Possible explanation for Gamma-Ray Bursts ?

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.    Full story


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  here  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.    Full story     Video


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.    Full story


Dateline -  22 July 2013:  The mystery of the missing waves on Titan

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.    Full story     Video


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.    Full story


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.    Full story


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.    Full story     Video


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.    Full story


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.    Full story

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 Solander Point.     Full story


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 telescope.     Full story


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.     Full story     Video


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  here .


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. Click  here  for images and updates.


Dateline -  19 June 2013:  Earth to be photographed from Saturn next month

One month from now, on July 19, 2013, NASA's Cassini spacecraft will photograph Earth through the rings of Saturn.    Full story


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.    Full story     Video


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.     Full story


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  here  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 atmosphere.     Full story     Video


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 story     Video   


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.     Full story     Video


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 asteroids.     Full story  


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 'hot Jupiters'.     Full story     Video


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  here  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.     Full story     Video


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.     Full story     Video


Dateline -  10 May 2013:  "Ring of Fire" solar eclipse over Australia  

As the sun rose over Australia this morning, May 10, the solar disc turned into a ring of fire - an annular solar eclipse. Click  here  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.     Full story     Video


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. Click  here  for updates.


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.     Full story


Dateline -  29 April 2013:   Meteors collide with Saturn's rings

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has provided the first direct evidence of small meteoroids crashing into Saturn's rings.     Full story


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.     Full story     Video


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.    Full story     Video


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  here .    Video


Dateline -  18 April 2013:   Three new planets found in 'Goldilocks Zones'

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.    Full story


Dateline -  15 April 2013:   New signs of Dark Matter found by ISS

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.     Full story     Video


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  here  for updates.

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.     Full story     Video


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.     Full story     Video


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.    Full story


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.     Full story     Video


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 microbes.    Full story


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  here  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.    Full story


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  here  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.    Full story


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  video .


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.     Full story


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  here  for more information and updates.


Dateline -  15 February 2013:   Asteroid flyby tomorrow morning

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.     Full story     Video


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.     Media release


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.     Full story     Video


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.    Full story


Dateline -  6 February 2013:   A possible naked-eye comet in March

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 Fomalhaut. 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.    Full story     Video


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.    Full story     Video


Dateline -  28 January 2013:   Webcam video as bushfire envelopes Siding Spring Observatory

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  here .


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.     Full story     Video


Dateline -  14 January 2013:   Bushfire envelopes Siding Spring Observatory

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  here  (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 Spring Observatory

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 visible

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  here  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 planet.     Full story


Dateline -  21 December 2012:   Sky show on December 25

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 optics.    Full story     Video


Dateline -  21 December 2012:   Another Transit of Venus, this time from Saturn

Today, researchers will use NASA's Cassini spacecraft to observe a rare transit of Venus visible from the planet Saturn.     Full story 

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'  here .


Dateline -  18 December 2012:   GRAIL spacecraft impact on the Moon

NASA has named the site where the two GRAIL (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory) spacecraft hit the Moon today in honour of the late astronaut Sally K. Ride, who was America's first woman in space and a member of the GRAIL mission team.    Full story


Dateline -  13 December 2012:   Geminid Meteor Shower has begun

The Earth is passing through a stream of debris from 'rock comet' 3200 Phaethon, source of the annual Geminid meteor shower. Around the world, observers are counting as many as 60 shooting stars per hour, a number which could increase sharply as the shower peaks on the nights of December 13-15. Wherever you live, the best time to look is during the dark hours between midnight and sunrise, facing north. Click  here  for sky maps, photos, and updates.


Dateline -  13 December 2012:   NASA gravity probes to hit the Moon next Tuesday

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.    Full story


Dateline -  12 December 2012:   4.5 kilometre asteroid Toutatis passes within 7 million kilometres of the Earth tomorrow

Asteroid 4179 Toutatis is tumbling past Earth tomorrow. Astronomers are taking advantage of the flyby to ping the space rock using NASA radars and obtain images of unprecedented clarity.    Full story    


Dateline -  11 December 2012:   A new meteor shower this week to compete with the Geminids ?

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.    Full story     Video


Dateline -  10 December 2012:   Geminids meteor shower this week

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.    Full story


Dateline -  10 December 2012:   Sir Patrick Moore dies, aged 89

Sir Patrick Caldwell-Moore (born 1923) died peacefully last night. A well-known populariser of astronomy, he presented a half-hour program, The Sky at Night, on BBC television once a month from April 24, 1957 for over 50 years. In over 700 episodes, Moore only missed one show (July 2004, when he nearly died from food-poisoning). The program covered a wide range of astronomical and space-related topics, including stellar life cycles, radio astronomy, artificial satellites, neutron stars and black holes. The program also referred to what was currently happening in the night sky, especially when something less common, such as a comet or an eclipse was present. Many of the world’s leading astronomical figures appeared on the show throughout the years, including Harlow Shapley, Fred Hoyle, Carl Sagan, Neil Armstrong and the Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees. In his final years, he was confined to a wheelchair and the BBC recorded the program at his Selsey home. In 2011 the Royal Astronomical Society created the Sir Patrick Moore Medal, to be awarded each year for excellence in secondary astronomy teaching. Moore produced the useful Caldwell Catalogue in 1995, listing 109 of the most interesting objects in the sky.   Full story


March 4,1923  -  December 9, 2012


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.    Full story


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.     Full story


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.    Full story


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'.    Full story     (Contributed by Lee)


Dateline -  23 November 2012:   Australian solar eclipse pictures

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.     Full story     Video


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.    Full story     Video


Dateline -  11 November 2012:   Taurid Meteor Shower this week

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 Wednesday

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.     Full story     Video


Dateline -  31 October 2012:   Mars soil is like that on Hawaii ?

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.     Full story


Dateline -  5 October 2012:   CSIRO opens the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP)

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).    Press release


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.    Full story     Video


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  here  (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.    Full story


Dateline -  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 thought.    Full story


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  here  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  here  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. Click  here  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.    Full story    Video


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.     Full story    Video


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 called 'Coronation'.     Full story


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.     Full story

With split-second timing, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured an amazing snapshot of Curiosity parachuting to the surface of Mars.     Story and pictures


Dateline -  29 July 2012:   Martian triangle in the sky

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.    Full story     Video 


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.    Full story     (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 satellites.    Full story


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.    Full story


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?    Full story      (Contributed by Lee.)


Dateline -  13 July 2012:   Solar flare aimed towards Earth 

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  here  for more information and updates.


Dateline -  12 July 2012:   Astronomers find evidence of dark galaxies 

Astronomers in Chile using a powerful telescope have observed what appears to be evidence of the existence of dark galaxies.   Full story    ((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.  Full story    (Contributed by Sharon)          NASA report


Dateline -  11 July 2012:   Hubble Ultra-deep Field in 3D 

Here 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.    Video       (Contributed by Gary.)

Dateline -  11 July 2012:   Elqui Domos - the hotel for astronomers 

Want to watch the stars wheeling overhead from your hotel bed? You can do it from  here .    (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.    Full story     Video


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 explosions.    Full story


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.      Full story


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 by clicking  here .    (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  here .    (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 - clic here .  

The world's largest collection of Venus Transit images may be found in Space Weather's new real-time photo gallery - click  here .


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  here .


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.     Full story      Video


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.    Full story     Video


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 Andromeda Galaxy.     Full story


Dateline -  29 May 2012:   Close encounter with a small asteroid tonight

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 found  here .


Dateline -  28 May 2012:   Partial lunar eclipse next Monday night

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.     Full story


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.     Her story


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.     Full story


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  Spaceweather .


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  here .  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.     Full story


Dateline -  16 May 2012:   List of PHAs (Potentially Hazardous Asteroids)

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.     Full story


Dateline -  15 May 2012:   Solar eclipse this Chinese space station transits the Sun

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.     Full story


Dateline -  14 May 2012:   Chinese space station transits the Sun

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 it  here .  Tiangong-1 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 neighbourhood:   http://simpleflybys.com


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.     Full story


Dateline -  3 May 2012:  The Aquarid meteor swarm is on this weekend

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  here .


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.     Full story


Dateline -  21 April 2012:  The Lyrid meteor shower is on this weekend

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  here .


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.    Full story


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  here   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.    Full story      Video


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.    News report


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.   Full story


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.     Full story


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  here   for updates..


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  Spaceweather .


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.    Full story


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.    Full story


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   here  .


Dateline -  13 February 2012:  International Space Station flyover of Aurora Borealis produces stunning video

Please click   here  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.    Full story

A video version of this story is available   here 


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.    Full story

A video version of this story is available   here  . 


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. Please click  here  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).  Please click  here  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.    Full story     (Contributed by Lee.)

 The 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.    Full story     A video version of this story is available  here .


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.    Full story


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   here  (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  here .


Dateline -  30 December 2011:  Origin of meteorites from the asteroid Vesta ?

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?    Full story


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.      Full story


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 highlighted  here .


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.     Full story


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  here  (ensure 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 story .


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 (Queensland time):
                                                                                     Penumbral eclipse begins:                  9:34 pm;    
                                                                                     Partial umbral eclipse begins:           10:46 pm;    
                                                                                     Total eclipse begins:                          12:06 am;    
                                                                                     Mid-eclipse:                                        12:32 am;     
                                                                                     Total eclipse ends:                             12:57 am;   
                                                                                     Partial umbral eclipse ends:                2:18 am;    
                                                                                     Penumbral eclipse ends:                     3:20 am. 
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."     Full story


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.     Full story


Dateline -  5 December 2011:  Kepler space observatory finds a habitable planet

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.     Full story


Dateline -  3 December 2011:  New Horizons spacecraft passes a milestone

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.      Full story


Dateline -  26 November 2011:  Coronal mass ejection and radiation storm

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  here  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.     Full story


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.      Full story


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.     Full story


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.   Click  here  for 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  here  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. Click  here  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.     Full story


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 Rockefeller Foundation later adding another US $ 107 000. 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. Click  here  for updates.


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 innermost planet.     Full story


Dateline -  21 October 2011:  Massive satellite will re-enter this weekend

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  here .


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.     Full story


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.    Full story


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  here  for more information.

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:  Fly bys .


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.     Press release

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.    Full story


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.     Full story


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  here .


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  here  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.    Full story


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.     Full story


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.    Full story


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. Click  here  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 the  BBC  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 sightings.)  Click  here  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.    Full story


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.   Full story


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.   Full story


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.   Full story


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 Planet.   Full story


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.  Click  here  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.   Full story


Dateline -  21 July 2011:  Space Shuttle program now ended after 30 yearsT

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  here  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.   Full story


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 Vesta.    See it here


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.   Full story 


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 magnitude -2.0.

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.   Full story


Dateline -  7 July 2011:  Great white storm on Saturn is encircling the planet

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.    Full story


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.    Full story


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 recent settlement.

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 day's work.

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 five telescopes.

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  here  and check the Simple Satellite Tracker for local flyby times and watch this unique spacecraft strobe overhead.    Full story


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.   Full story


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:








May 18

Hubble Space Telescope

5:43 pm


5:47 pm


2.0 (visible)


Space Shuttle Endeavour

6:10 pm


6:13 pm


-0.8 (bright)


International Space Station

6:10 pm


6:13 pm


-2.9 (very bright)


Hubble Space Telescope

7:25 pm




4.0 (dim)








 May 19


5:06 am


5:09 am


1.8 (visible)


GOCE (flaring satellite)

5:59 am


6:00 am


5.1 (dim)


Hubble Space Telescope

5:40 pm


5:45 am


2.1 (visible)


Space Shuttle Endeavour docked with the International Space Station

6:35 pm


6:37 pm


-2.5 (very bright)



6:43 pm


6:45 pm


4.0 (dim)








May 20


5:14 am


5:17 pm


2.3 (visible)


Endeavour docked with the International Space Station

5:23 pm


5:25 pm


-3.0 (very bright)


Hubble Space Telescope

5:38 pm


5:42 pm


2.5 (visible)



6:21 pm


6:24 pm


4.1 (dim)








May 21


5:22 am


5:25 am


2.8 (visible)



5:15 pm


5:17 am


1.1 (visible)


Hubble Space Telescope

5:35 pm


5:39 pm


3.0 (visible)



5:43 pm


5:46 pm


2.1 (visible)


Endeavour docked with the International Space Station

5:47 pm


5:49 pm


-2.4 (very bright)



6:10 pm


6:13 pm


4.2 (dim)








May 22


5:19 pm


5:23 pm


1.0 (bright)


Hubble Space Telescope

5:33 pm


5:36 pm


3.7 (dim)



6:02 pm


6:04 pm


4.0 (dim)


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.   Full story


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.   Full story


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 planets.   Full story 


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 story 


Dateline -  28 April 2011:  Voyager probes heading towards the threshold of interstellar space

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  will reach this distance in about 52 000 more years.    Full story

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 story


Dateline -  12 April 2011:  Yuri Gagarin, first man in space, 50 years ago today

The first orbit of the Earth by a human being occurred fifty years ago today.     NASA note     Full story


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.     Full story


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  here  .


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  here  for 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.     Full story


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 more?     Full story


Dateline -  18 March 2011:  MESSENGER probe now in orbit around Mercury

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. ]     Full story


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.    Full story


Dateline -  15 March 2011:  MESSENGER probe prepares to enter orbit around Mercury

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.    Full story


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.    Full story


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.    Full story


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.  Click  here  for more.


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. Click  here  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.    Full story


Dateline -  9 February 2011:  Comet probe to meet comet Tempel 1 next week

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.    Full story


Dateline -  6 February 2011:  STEREO spacecraft photographs entire Sun

Yesterday, 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).    Full story


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.    Full story


Dateline -  31 January 2011:  Robot to join crew of International Space Station

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   Full story


Dateline -  28 January 2011:  Double blast on Sun

Yesterday 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. Click  here  for movies of the eruption captured by SOHO and the 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 pillars. Click  here  for 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 spacecraft has unfurled a gleaming sheet of space-age fabric 650 km above Earth, becoming the first-ever solar sail to circle our planet.     Full story


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.     Full story


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 show that many of these thunderstorms may be making antimatter.    Full story


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  here  for photographs.


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.    Full story


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  here .


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. Click  here  for 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  here.


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.    Full story


Dateline -  6 December 2010:  Massive filament develops on the Sun

A 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 days ahead. Don't attempt to observe this through a telescope if it is not equipped with an approved hydrogen-alpha filter.  Click  here  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. Click  here  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.     Full story


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 Hartley 2.     Full story


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.    Full story


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.    Full story


Dateline -  11 November 2010:  Jupiter's missing stripe returning ?

Earlier 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.  Click  here  for images and updates.


Dateline -  8 November 2010:  Conference to discuss storms from the Sun

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.    Full story


Dateline -  8 November 2010:  Possible new comet experiencing an outburst

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  here  for photos and more information.


Dateline -  4 November 2010:  Last flight of Space Shuttle Discovery delayed

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 earliest.


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. Click  here  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  this story  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  here  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.    Full story


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  here  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  here  for an ephemerides and more information.


Dateline -  27 October 2010:  New mission to Moon

A 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.    Full story


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.    Full story


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.   Full story


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). Click  here  for 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. Click  here   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  here   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  here .


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 seen.    Full story


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.    Full story


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  here .for 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  here .  

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  here  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.      Full story


Dateline -  9 September 2010:  Jupiter is being bombarded by small asteroids

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 frequent fireballs.    Full story


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 here  for must-see movies from the Solar Dynamics Observatory and other spacecraft.


Dateline -  2 September 2010:  Spacecraft planned to plunge into the Sun

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.    Full story


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.    Full story


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  here  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. Click  here  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.    Full story


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.    Full story


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 shortwave radios. Click  here  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  here  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.    Full story


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.    Full story


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  here .


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.    Full story


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 magnitude.    More 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 video.   Full 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 story


Dateline -  25 May 2010:  International Space Station sightings 

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  fhere . .


Dateline -  25 May 2010:  X-37B space plane sightings 

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  fhere ,, and more information may be found  fhere ..


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  Spaceweather


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?  Click fhere .

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.    Full story


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 Murrumbateman, NSW.    Full story ..


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 fhere .


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  here ..


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 Discovery.   Full story ..  R2 has already got his own  home page .


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  here  to download 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.    More .


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 believed.   Full story . 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.   Full story .


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 south-south-western 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  story .


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 be found  here , 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 here .


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  Spaceweather..


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  here .


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 here for movies of the ongoing encounter and more information about the comet.


Dateline - 1 March 2010:   Will the world end on December 21, 2012? 

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  here .


Dateline - 24 February 2010:   Bogged Mars rover Spirit has a new  rôle

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 winter.   Full story 


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   here .


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  here  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.    Full story


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.    More


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  here .


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 platform.    Full story 


Dateline - 26 January 2010:   Mars is at its closest to Earth until 2014

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.    Full story 


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  here..


Dateline - 15 January 2010:   Giant ribbon at the edge of the Solar System

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.   Full story 


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 hunter too.

"Webb was 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!"   Full story


Dateline - 8 January 2010:   NASA's new SOFIA telescope undergoes testing

Most astronomers wouldn't dream of opening their observatory's doors in 160 kph winds. Yet NASA's new SOFIA telescope (Stratospheric 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.   Full story


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.   More   Picture   These two links contributed by Gary Taylor.


Dateline - 4 January 2010:   Kepler space telescope finds its first extra-solar planets

NASA's Kepler space telescope, designed to find Earth-size planets in the habitable zone of sun-like stars, has discovered its first five new exoplanets.    Full story


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  here .


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 here , but ensure the date is set to 31 December.


Dateline - 31 December 2009:   Make your iPhone or iPod into a satellite tracker

Turn your iPhone or iPod Touch into a field-tested satellite tracker! Click here 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 here..

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.


Dateline - 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  here  for photos, a sky map, and live audio from a meteor radar.


Dateline - 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  here..


Dateline - 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 confirmed. Click  here  for images and eyewitness reports of this mysterious apparition.


Dateline - 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).    Full story


Dateline - 2 December 2009:   Mars rover Spirit still bogged in sand, but still working

While stuck in a sandtrap, Mars rover Spirit has made a discovery one researcher calls "supremely interesting."     Full story


Dateline - 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  here.  This link contributed by Gary Taylor.


Dateline - 24 November 2009:   Waves on the Sun

Data from NASA's STEREO (Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory) spacecraft have confirmed the stunning reality of monster waves on the sun known as 'solar tsunamis.'     Full story


Dateline - 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.     Full story


Dateline - 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.     Full story


Dateline - 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.    Full story


Dateline - 10 November 2009:   A possible outburst of the Leonid meteor shower arrives next Wednesday morning  

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.    Full story


Dateline - 3 November 2009:   How the International Space Station has been built so far  

Click  here  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.


Dateline - 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.    Full story


Dateline - 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.    News storyf     More

Dateline - 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 LADEE (Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer) to investigate this process, and which chemicals are most active.    Full story


Dateline - 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."    Full story


Dateline - 17 October 2009:   LCROSS lunar impact plume photograph released  

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 Earth. Click  here  for images of the plume and commentary from mission scientists.


Dateline - 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.     Full story


Dateline - 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 Flight Centre.     Full story


Dateline - 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  NASA TV . The Moon will be below the horizon for amateur astronomers in Australia.    Full story


Dateline - 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.     Full story


Dateline - 5 October 2009:   LCROSS satellite will impact the Moon this Friday coming  

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 .     Full story


Dateline - 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.    Full story


Dateline - 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.    Full story


Dateline - 24 September 2009:   NASA scientists discover water molecules on the Moon  

Using instruments on three separate spacecraft, scientists have discovered water molecules in the polar regions of the Moon.     Full story


Dateline - 23 September 2009:   NASA spacecraft due to photograph Mercury next week  

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.     Full story


Dateline - 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.


Dateline - 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.      More


Dateline - 15 September 2009:   Finding dark asteroids that could collide with Earth

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).    Full story


Dateline - 11 September 2009:   LCROSS satellite will impact the Moon in four weeks time

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. LCROSS 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 11 pm.    Full story 

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.


Dateline - 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


Dateline - 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.     Full story


Dateline - 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 Observatory. Today's  story  highlights some of Chandra's most surprising, violent and beautiful images of the high-energy Universe.


Dateline - 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 playing now k  here  (set the date at right to August 19, 2009).


Dateline - 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 away.    Full story


Dateline - 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 value. Check  here  for details and observing tips.


Dateline - 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?   Full story

Dateline - 21 July 2009:   Longest solar eclipse of the 21st century is about to beginW

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