(including reports © NASA and © Spaceweather.com)
 

News prior to January 1, 2015

 


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 -  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

Video

 

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 .

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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

VALE
SIR PATRICK CALDWELL-MOORE
ASTRONOMER

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 f(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:

DATE

SATELLITE

RISE TIME

DIRECTION TO LOOK

TRANSIT TIME

MAXIMUM ELEVATION

MAGNITUDE

May 18

Hubble Space Telescope

5:43 pm

West

5:47 pm

88°

2.0 (visible)

 

Space Shuttle Endeavour

6:10 pm

North-North-West

6:13 pm

39°

-0.8 (bright)

 

International Space Station

6:10 pm

North-North-West

6:13 pm

41°

-2.9 (very bright)

 

Hubble Space Telescope

7:25 pm

West

7:28

26°

4.0 (dim)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 May 19

CZ-4B R/B

5:06 am

North

5:09 am

47°

1.8 (visible)

 

GOCE (flaring satellite)

5:59 am

North-North-East

6:00 am

26°

5.1 (dim)

 

Hubble Space Telescope

5:40 pm

West

5:45 am

73°

2.1 (visible)

 

Space Shuttle Endeavour docked with the International Space Station

6:35 pm

West-North-West

6:37 pm

36°

-2.5 (very bright)

 

X-37B

6:43 pm

West-South-West

6:45 pm

27°

4.0 (dim)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 20

CZ-4B R/B

5:14 am

North

5:17 pm

37°

2.3 (visible)

 

Endeavour docked with the International Space Station

5:23 pm

North-North-West

5:25 pm

41°

-3.0 (very bright)

 

Hubble Space Telescope

5:38 pm

West

5:42 pm

56°

2.5 (visible)

 

XSS-11

6:21 pm

North

6:24 pm

71°

4.1 (dim)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 21

CZ-4B R/B

5:22 am

North-North-West

5:25 am

29°

2.8 (visible)

 

CZ-4B R/B

5:15 pm

South-South-East

5:17 am

77°

1.1 (visible)

 

Hubble Space Telescope

5:35 pm

West

5:39 pm

42°

3.0 (visible)

 

X-37B

5:43 pm

West-South-West

5:46 pm

73°

2.1 (visible)

 

Endeavour docked with the International Space Station

5:47 pm

West-North-West

5:49 pm

33°

-2.4 (very bright)

 

XSS-11

6:10 pm

North-North-East

6:13 pm

69°

4.2 (dim)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 22

CZ-4B R/B

5:19 pm

South

5:23 pm

84°

1.0 (bright)

 

Hubble Space Telescope

5:33 pm

West

5:36 pm

30°

3.7 (dim)

 

X-37B

6:02 pm

West

6:04 pm

26°

4.0 (dim)

 

Dateline -  18 May 2011:  Free-floating orphan planets in space

 

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

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

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 .

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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 from the path of totality will be posted  here  as the event unfolds.

 

Dateline - 21 July 2009:   40th anniversary of the first lunar landing by Apollo 11

Widespread coverage is available concerning this anniversary.

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Dateline - 20 July 2009:   Long eclipse of the Sun over India and China tomorrow

The longest solar eclipse of the 21st century takes place tomorrow, Wednesday, 22 July. The path of totality crosses many major cities, including Shanghai, setting the stage for possibly the best-observed eclipse in human history. No part of the eclipse will be visible from the Sunshine Coast.   Full story

 

Dateline - 19 July 2009:   New Jupiter impact ?

On 19 July, Andrew Wesley, a veteran observer of Jupiter living in Murrumbateman, New South Wales, photographed a fresh dark 'scar' in Jupiter's cloudtops near its south pole. The feature resembles the Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacts of 1994. It is possible that Jupiter has been struck anew by an asteroid or comet. Astronomers around the world should train their telescopes on Jupiter to confirm the event and monitor its progress, as the jet streams in Jupiter's atmosphere will probably destroy the feature fairly rapidly.   Full story with photos and updatesf .

 

Dateline - 26 June 2009:   A room with a view, on the International Space Station

Astronauts are looking forward to an unprecedented view of the cosmos when the largest window ever built for space is installed on the International Space Station. The window, called the Cupola because of its domed shape, is now at Kennedy Space Center waiting for final installation on the Node-3 (Tranquility) module. With the launch date set by NASA for February 2010 on Space Shuttle Endeavour, Node-3 should be loaded into the Shuttle cargo bay by the end of 2009.

The Node-3 connecting module, built by prime contractor Thales Alenia Space in Turin, Italy, is the last element of a barter agreement by which ESA supplied NASA with ISS hardware, including the Cupola and two Node modules (Node 2 and 3).

The design of the viewing window appears to be related to a similar window fitted to the submarine Nautilus, in Walt Disney's 1954 film '20 000 Leagues under the Sea'.    Full story

 

Dateline - 26 June 2009:   Volcanic vistas

On June 12, astronauts aboard the International Space Station watched in amazement as Russia's Sarychev Peak volcano erupted directly beneath their spacecraft. The rare photo they took is a must-see. An enormous sulphur dioxide plume from the eruption is now circling the globe at northern latitudes, producing spectacular sunsets for international air travellers. Click  here  to see 3D photos of the eruption from space, satellite movies of the sulphur dioxide plume, and a Mars-like view of the volcanic cloud over the Canadian Arctic.

 

Dateline - 23 June 2009:   Live pictures of lunar flyby tonight

Tonight, NASA's LCROSS (Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite) spacecraft will fly by the Moon only 9 000 kilometres above the lunar surface. The purpose of the encounter is to put LCROSS in an elongated Earth orbit and position it for impact at the lunar south pole later this year. Live video streaming of the flyby begins at approximately 10:20 pm AEST on Tuesday, June 23, 2009.   Click here to watch

 

Dateline - 19 June 2009:   Satellites guide relief to Honduras earthquake victims

On Thursday, May 28th, at 2:24 am local time, a severe earthquake rocked Honduras, killing seven people and injuring several others, demolishing homes, damaging scores of other buildings, and sending terrified residents running through the streets. In the aftermath, the NASA-led SERVIR program orchestrated use of satellite data to show Central American disaster officials where help was needed most.   Full story

 

Dateline - 17 June 2009:   The mystery of the missing sunspots

Where have all the sunspots gone? Scientists studying a jet stream deep inside the sun may have found the answer.   Full story

 

Dateline - 17 June 2009:   Night-shining clouds over Europe

On June 16th, a remarkably intense display of electric-blue noctilucent clouds (NLCs) swept across Europe. Sightings were made in Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Poland and the British Isles. These mysterious clouds are known to flourish during years of solar minimum, and 2009 is such a year. This means more NLCs may be in the offing, not only over Europe but also North America and elsewhere. Click  here  for images and movies of the clouds.

 

Dateline - 10 June 2009:   Japanese spacecraft to collide with Moon tonight  (contributed by Greg and Michelle Rogers)

Australian observers will have a rare opportunity for an observing adventure early tomorrow morning. On June 11th at 4:30 Ausralian Eastern Standard Time the Japanese lunar orbiter Kaguya (originally called Selene) will end its two years of science with a final impact experiment. The location of the impact is very near the southeast limb close to 80ºE, 63ºS. This area will be in shadow as the Moon has just passed full, but should be easy to find just beyond the terminator south of the large crater-plain Janssen. Visual observations and video monitoring may be rewarded with a bright flash or (possibly) a cloud of ejecta that rises into sunlight as the large spacecraft rams into the surface at 6000 km/hr. It is impossible to predict accurately what will be seen.   Full story and finder map

 

Dateline - 9 June 2009:   Not again....

There's an email going around claiming that Mars will look as big as a Full Moon on August 27th. This stupid email has been coming around every August since 2003. Mars on the date quoted will have a tiny angular diameter of only 6 arcseconds. The Moon's diameter will be 1806 arcseconds, 301 times bigger! Click  here  to find out the origin of this hoax.

 

Dateline - 2 June 2009:   The Earth is gradually drifting away from the Sun  (contributed by Greg and Michelle Rogers)

New research has suggested that the Earth is moving away from the Sun because tidal interaction is making them both push each other away. Thanks to radar beams bouncing off various solar-system bodies and to tracking of interplanetary spacecraft, the Sun-Earth distance has been measured with remarkable accuracy. The current mean value stands at 149 597 870.696 kilometres. (Accuracy to one metre ???)    Full story

 

Dateline - 28 May 2009:   Eerie red glow seen in our oceans

NASA's Aqua satellite has detected a red glow coming from phytoplankton in Earth's oceans. This unique signal allows researchers to monitor the health of ocean plants in a new and telling way.    Full story

 

Dateline - 27 May 2009:   Space Agencies use dummies to measure the amount of radiation that humans can be exposed to when conducting extra-vehicular activity from the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station

The Phantom Torso is back on Earth and he has quite a story to tell about the perils of space radiation.    Full story

 

Dateline - 11 May 2009:   Movie showing Jupiter's moon Europa eclipsing another moon, Ganymede

An amateur astronomer in Australia has photographed a very rare event - one of Jupiter's moons eclipsing another. Earth is now passing through the orbital plane of Jupiter's satellite system allowing such 'mutual occultations' to be seen through backyard telescopes.    Full story and movie

 

Dateline - 11 May 2009:   Satellite debris

On February 10, 2009, Iridium 33 crashed into Cosmos 2251 and the two satellites were shattered. Since then, US Strategic Command has catalogued nearly a thousand pieces of debris. Today's link presents 3D maps showing where the fragments are located on the three-month anniversary of the unprecedented collision. One large piece of Iridium 33 wreckage is visible to the naked eye as it tumbles through the night sky, flashing every 4.7 seconds. Check the Simple Satellite Tracker for flyby times by clicking  here .

Dateline - 8 May 2009:   New results from study of dwarf galaxies orbiting the Milky Way  (contributed by Gary Taylor)

Some basic principles of physics and astronomy have been cast into doubt by new research involving scientists in Australia and Europe. The researchers, including Dr Helmut Jerjen of the Australian National University, studied dwarf galaxies orbiting the Milky Way. They found the galaxies were not uniformly spread around, as predicted by the so-called dark matter theory.

"They are forming some sort of disc in the sky," Dr Jerjen said. The dark matter theory explains some major problems in cosmology by postulating that most of the matter in the universe is invisible.    Full story

 

Dateline - 6 May 2009:   Venetia Burney Phair, the girl who named Pluto, dies at age 90  (contributed by Greg and Michelle Rogers)

Venetia Phair, who has died aged 90, had the distinction of being the only woman in the world to have named a planet. In 1930, as a girl of 11, she suggested the name Pluto for the dark and distant celestial body that had just been discovered, and which became (albeit only temporarily) the ninth planet in our solar system.    Full story

 

Dateline - 4 May 2009:   Eta Aquarids meteor shower due to peak tomorrow morning, Wednesday, 6 May

Forecasters expect the 2009 Eta Aquarid shower to peak on Wednesday morning, 6 May, with as many as 85 meteors per hour over the southern hemisphere. Sky watchers in Australia, New Zealand, South America and southern Africa are favoured. Rates in the northern hemisphere will be less, 20 to 30 per hour. The best time to look is during the moonless hour before local sunrise. That is when the shower's radiant is high in the sky and the nearly-full Moon will have set, leaving the sky dark for meteors.

The radiant lies near the 4th magnitude star Eta Aquarii, one of the stars in the 'Water Jar' asterism of Aquarius. It lies between Jupiter and the Great Square of Pegasus. At 4:30 am it will be about 40 degrees above the east-north-eastern horizon.

Eta Aquarids are flakes of dust from Halley's Comet, which last visited Earth in 1986. Although the comet is now far away, beyond the orbit of Uranus, it left behind a stream of dust. Earth passes through the stream twice a year in May and October. In May we have the Eta Aquarid meteor shower, in October the Orionids. Both are caused by Halley's Comet.    Full story and charts

 

Dateline - 30 April 2009:   NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft continues to send amazing colour pictures of Mercury

The NASA Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry, and Ranging spacecraft - MESSENGER for short, flew by Mercury for the second time on October 6, 2008, capturing more than 1200 high-resolution colour images of the planet. The pictures have revealed that Mercury's atmosphere, magnetosphere, and geological past display greater levels of activity than scientists first suspected.    Full story

 

Dateline - 28 April 2009:   The furthest object in the universe discovered last Thursday  (contributed by Greg and Michelle Rogers)

Astrronomers have spotted the most distant object yet confirmed in the universe – a self-destructing star that exploded 13.1 billion light years from Earth. It detonated just 640 million years after the big bang, around the end of the cosmic 'dark ages', when the first stars and galaxies were lighting up space. The object is a GRB (Gamma Ray Burster) about six degrees west of the second magnitude orange binary star Algieba (Gamma Leonis), in the middle of Leo's Sickle. It is named GRB 090423 after its date of discovery, and the burst shone at magnitude 20.1 before fading.    Full story      More from NASA

 

Dateline - 23 April 2009:   Latest images of Saturn from the Cassini spacecraft  (contributed by Greg and Michelle Rogers)

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is now a nearly a year into its extended mission, called Cassini Equinox (after its initial 4-year mission ended in June, 2008). The spacecraft continues to operate in good health, returning amazing images of Saturn, its ring system and moons, and providing new information and science on a regular basis. The mission's name, 'Equinox' comes from the upcoming Saturnian equinox in August, 2009, when its equator (and rings) will point directly toward the Sun. COntributed by Greg Rogers.    Full story

 

Dateline - 22 April 2009:   Great images from the Hubble Space Telescope  (contributed by Gary Taylor)

The Courier-Mail  website  contains 52 HST images, and links to more of the same. Not all are correctly captioned.

 

Dateline - 13 April 2009:   Radio storms on Jupiter

On April 11th, an amateur radio astronomer in New Mexico heard loud pops and crackles coming from the loudspeaker of his shortwave receiver. The sounds resembled terrestrial lightning, but the source was not on Earth. It was a radio storm on Jupiter. You can listen to the sounds by clicking  here .

Astronomers have long known that Jupiter produces strong shortwave radio bursts detectable from Earth; the fact of Jupiter's 'radio activity' is not news. However, now may be the best time in decades to listen to the giant planet. The sun is in the pits of a century-level solar minimum. Low solar activity increases the transparency of Earth's atmosphere to shortwave radio waves, allowing signals from Jupiter to more easily and clearly reach the ground. At the same time, terrestrial radio interference subsides (another side-effect of solar minimum), so Jupiter bursts are easier to identify.

2009 is going to be a good year for Jupiter. The planet is moving away from the sun and may now be seen shining brightly in the eastern sky before dawn. Students, teachers and amateur scientists who wish to try listening as well as watching should consider building their own radio telescope. Kits are available from NASA's Radio JOVE program by clicking  here .

 

Dateline - 9 April 2009:   Did an ancient planet called Theia collide with the Earth in the distant past to form the Moon ?

NASA's twin STEREO probes are entering a mysterious region of space to look for remains of an ancient planet which might have orbited the Sun not far from Earth. If they find anything, it could solve a major puzzle - the origin of the Moon.     Full story

 

Dateline - 8 April 2009:   NASA prepares to return to the Moon

1960's technology worked for the Apollo program, but next-generation lunar explorers have bigger goals and they are going to need an upgrade. NASA's Exploration Technology Development Program is working on new and improved tools for NASA's return to the Moon.     Full story

 

Dateline - 2 April 2009:   100 hours of Astronomy

This week, astronomers are celebrating the 400th anniversary of Galileo's original telescopic exploration of the sky with '100 Hours of Astronomy', a cornerstone project of the International Year of Astronomy. Running from April 2 until April 5, many different public programs are planned worldwide. Is one of them near you? Visit the 100 Hours web site to find out - click  here .  Note that the celebration ends on Sun Day, April 5, a special date devoted to observations of the sun - click  here  for details.

 

Dateline - 2 April 2009:   A spotless Sun

Yesterday, NASA announced that the sun has plunged into the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century. Sunspots have all but vanished and consequently the sun has become very quiet. In 2008, the sun had no spots 73% of the time, a 95-year low. In 2009, sunspots are even more scarce, with the 'spotless rate' jumping to 87%. We are currently experiencing a stretch of 25 continuous days uninterrupted by sunspots - and there's no end in sight.

This is a big event, but it is not unprecedented. Similarly deep solar minima were common in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, and each time the sun recovered with a fairly robust solar maximum. That's probably what will happen in the present case, although no one can say for sure. This is the first deep solar minimum of the Space Age, and the first one we have been able to observe using modern technology. Is it like others of the past? Or does this solar minimum have its own unique characteristics that we will discover for the first time as the cycle unfolds? These questions are at the cutting edge of solar physics.

You can monitor the progress of solar minimum with a new 'Spotless Days Counter'. Instead of counting sunspots, we're counting no sunspots. Daily updated totals tell you how many spotless days there have been in a row, in this year, and in the entire solar cycle. Comparisons to historical benchmarks put it all in perspective.  Click  here  to see the data.

 

Dateline - 26 March 2009:   Latest report on the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity

Back in 2004, most experts would have said this story was impossible. No rover could possibly survive long enough on Mars for a five-year update. Yet here it is. Mission scientists reveal what Spirit and Opportunity are up to on the Red Planet today - and what their prospects are for the future.    Full story

 

Dateline - 21 March 2009:   International Space Station gets new solar panel wings

The International Space Station's solar arrays are the largest deployable space assemblies ever built. Yesterday, astronauts unfurled a pair on the starboard side of the outpost, adding more than 8000 sq. feet of light-collecting surface area to the station's profile. Hours after the new wings were deployed, the ISS flew over Europe where amateur astronomers photographed the changes. Their movies and photos are featured  here  but ensure the date is set for March 21.

 

Dateline - 21 March 2009:   Solar conjunction of Jupiter's moons

Another must-see movie comes from NASA's STEREO-B spacecraft. On March 15th and 16th, the solar observatory watched Jupiter and its moons converge on the sun just as a coronal mass ejection was exploding 'overhead'.  Click  here  for footage, and set the date to March 21.

 

Dateline - 18 March 2009:   Asteroid buzzes Earth today

Newly-discovered asteroid 2009 FH is flying past Earth tonight only 85,000 km (0.00057 AU) away. That's a little more than twice the height of a geosynchronous communications satellite. Experienced amateur astronomers in North America can photograph the 20-metre-wide space rock racing through the constellation Gemini after sunset on March 17th (their time). It should be about as bright as a 14th magnitude star. Click  here  for an ephemeris and updates.

This is the second time this month that an asteroid has flown so close to Earth. On March 2nd, 2009 DD45 passed by only 72,000 km away. Measuring some tens of metres in diameter, 2009 DD45 and 2009 FH are approximately Tunguska-class objects, meaning that they pose no global threat but could cause major local damage if they actually colllide with the Earth. In years past, asteroids of this size often passed unnoticed, but recent improvements in asteroid surveys have resulted in growing numbers of space rocks caught in the act of near-Earth flybys.

 

Dateline - 17 March 2009:   Space shuttle Discovery docked with International Space Station

Space shuttle Discovery was launched last Sunday, March 15th, on a construction mission to the International Space Station. Perfect timing for sky watchers in North America, but not so for Australians. We need to rise before dawn to see the Space Shuttle - ISS combination with our unaided eyes, and view the changing outlines of the ISS through backyard telescopes.     Full story      Check the  Simple Satellite Tracker  for flyby times.

 

Dateline - 16 March 2009:   Space shuttle Discovery on way to International Space Station

FLYBY ALERT: In a twilight launch of stunning beauty, space shuttle Discovery left Earth yesterday on a two week construction mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Discovery is now approaching the ISS for docking tomorrow. The timing of this mission favours sky watchers in North America and Europe who will be able to see the two spacecraft flying over many towns and cities in the evenings ahead.   More  

 

Dateline - 13 March 2009:   Successful test of super-parachute designed to return 23 tonne rocket boosters safely to Earth for re-use

NASA and U.S. Air Force test pilots have dropped a 50,000-pound "dummy" rocket booster on the Arizona desert - and stopped it before it crashed. It's all part of NASA's plan to return to the Moon.    Full story

 

Dateline - 10 March 2009:   Debris from satellite collision about to fall to Earth

The first catalogued fragments of shattered satellite Cosmos 2251 are about to re-enter Earth's atmosphere. According to US Strategic Command tracking data, re-entries will occur on March 12, 28 and 30, followed by more in April. Radar cross sections are not available for all of the re-entering pieces - they are probably centimetre-class fragments that pose no threat to people on the ground.    Full story

 

Dateline - 6 March 2009:   Kepler spacecraft successfully launched

In a night launch of stunning beauty, NASA's Kepler spacecraft lifted off from Cape Canaveral on Friday night, March 6th, on a mission to find Earth-like planets circling other stars.   Full story

 

Dateline - 2 March 2009:   Asteroid near miss tonight

There's no danger of a collision, but newly-discovered asteroid 2009 DD45 will come close enough today when it flies by our planet 72,000 km (0.00048 AU) away. That's only twice the height of a geostationary communications satellite. The asteroid measures 30 to 40 metres across, similar in size to the Tunguska impactor of 1908. Closest approach occurs at approximately 1340 UT (11:40 pm Nambour time) on March 2. Experienced amateur astronomers may be able to photograph the space rock shining like an 11th magnitude star as it races through the constellations Hydra and Virgo. The timing favors observers in Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and east Asia. Click  here  for updates and ephemerides.

 

Dateline - 25 February 2009:   A solar eclipse, as seen from the Moon

For the first time, a spacecraft from Earth has captured high-resolution video of a solar eclipse while orbiting another world.    Full story 

 

Dateline - 23 February 2009:   Cosmic coincidence of February 24, 2009

What are the odds? On Tuesday, February 24, Saturn and Comet Lulin will converge in the constellation Leo to be only 2 degrees apart. At the same time, Comet Lulin will be making its closest approach to Earth - the comet at its best  - while four of Saturn's moons transit the disc of the ringed planet in view of backyard telescopes. The Moon will be New, providing dark skies for anyone who wishes to see the show.

The best time to look is from 9 p.m. on Tuesday night when the planet-comet conjunction will be starting. By 1 a.m. the objects will both be culminating (at their highest points above the northern horizon.) To the unaided eye, Comet Lulin will look like a faint patch of gas floating next to golden Saturn. Point your backyard telescope at that patch and you will see a lovely green comet with a double tail.

Click  here  for full coverage including photos, sky maps, and a live webcast. For details about the quadruple transit, click  here .

 

Dateline - 20 February 2009:   Kepler planet-seeking spacecraft due for launch in two weeks

Are there other worlds like ours? Are we alone? NASA's Kepler spacecraft is about to begin an unprecedented journey that could ultimately answer these ancient questions.    Full story

 

Dateline - 19 February 2009:   Transits of Saturn's satellites

Something is about to happen on Saturn that is so unusual, even Hubble will pause to take a look. Backyard astronomers can see it, too. Four of Saturn's moons will transit Saturn and cast their shadows on the planet's cloudtops at the same time.  The event will begin at 8:54 pm on Tuesday night, February 24. At that time, Saturn will be 6ºove the east-north-eastern horizon. The multiple transits will continue through the night.     Full story

 

Dateline - 18 February 2009:   Comet Lulin update

Comet Lulin is approaching Earth and brightening rapidly. Observers say it is now visible to the naked eye as a faint (magnitude +5.6) gassy patch in the constellation Virgo after midnight. Even city dwellers have seen it. Backyard telescopes reveal a vivid green comet in obvious motion. Just yesterday, amateur astronomers watched as a solar wind gust tore away part of the comet's tail, the second time this month such a thing has happened. Lulin's closest approach to Earth (38 million miles) is on February 24; at that time the comet could be two or three times brighter than it is now. Browse the gallery for the latest images by clicking  here .

 

Dateline - 18 February 2009:   Satellite debris

More than a week has passed since the February 10 collision of Iridium 33 and Kosmos 2251 over northern Siberia, and the orbits of some of the largest fragments have now been measured by US Strategic Command. Today's edition of  Spaceweather.com  features global maps showing where the debris is located. Only 26 fragments are currently plotted, but that number will grow as radar tracking of the debris continues. Check back often for updates.

 

Dateline - 16 February 2009:   Fireballs seen in daylight

A daylight fireball over Texas on Sunday, February 15, triggered widespread reports that debris from a recent satellite collision was falling to Earth. Those reports were premature. Researchers have studied video of the event and concluded that the object was more likely a natural meteoroid about one metre wide travelling at a speed of more than 20 kilometres per second - much faster than orbital debris.  Meteoroids of varying sizes hit the Earth every day, and the Texas fireball was apparently one of them.

There's more: On Friday, February 13, people in central Kentucky heard loud booms, felt their houses shake, and saw a fireball streaking through the sky. This occurred scant hours after another fireball at least 10 times brighter than a full Moon lit up the sky over Italy. Although it is tempting to attribute these events to debris from the February 10 collision of the Iridium 33 and Kosmos 2251 satellites (see next story below), the Kentucky and Italy fireballs also seem to be meteoroids, not man-made objects. Italian scientists are studying the ground track of their fireball, which was recorded by multiple cameras, and they will soon begin to hunt for meteorites.

Videos, eye-witness reports and more information about these events may be found  here .

 

Dateline - 12 February 2009:   Two satellites collide in Earth orbit over Siberia

Experts are calling it an "unprecedented event." Two large satellites have collided in Earth orbit. Kosmos 2251 crashed into Iridium 33 on Tuesday, February 10, approximately 800 km over northern Siberia; both were destroyed. The resulting clouds of debris contain more than 500 fragments, significantly increasing the orbital debris population at altitudes where the collision occurred. The Air Force Space Surveillance Radar is monitoring the clouds as they pass over the radar facility in Texas. We, in turn, are monitoring signals from the radar and you may be able to hear debris 'pings' by tuning in to our audio feed. This is a story that will unfold in the days ahead as researchers study the evolution of the debris clouds and piece together the details of the collision.   Full coverage of this story including live audio feed

 

Dateline - 10 February 2009:   Gamma-ray flare star

A gamma-ray flare star 30 000 light years from Earth is putting on a remarkable show for NASA spacecraft. Highlights include ghostly x-ray 'light halos' and eruptions packing more total energy than the Sun puts out in 20 years.     Full story

 

Dateline - 5 February 2009:   Comet Lulin loses its tail

Comet Lulin (C/2007 N3) is approaching Earth and putting on a good show for amateur astronomers. Yesterday, Feb. 4th, observers witnessed a 'disconnection event.' A gust of solar wind tore off part of the comet's tail in plain view of backyard telescopes. Photos of the event are featured  here . Activity in the comet's tail and atmosphere will become even easier to see in the weeks ahead as Lulin nears closest approach on Feb. 24. At that time the comet will lie less than 50 million kilometres from Earth and it should be visible to the naked eye. In the meantime, please note that February 6 - 7 is an especially good time to find Comet Lulin in the pre-dawn sky. The comet is gliding beautifully close to the naked-eye double star Zuben Elgenubi. Just point your binoculars at the double star and the comet will materialize right beside it. Click  here  for photos, sky maps and more information.

 

Dateline - 4 February 2009:   Comet Lulin is approaching

A green comet of rare beauty is approaching Earth and may become visible to the naked eye later this month.     Full story

 

Dateline - 21 January 2009:   Can the Sun stop your toilet from flushing?

A new NASA-funded study details what might happen to our modern, high-tech society in the event of a 'super solar flare' followed by an extreme geomagnetic storm. Some of the conclusions might surprise you.     Full story

 

Dateline - 15 January 2009:   Mars is not a dead planet

A team of NASA and university scientists has discovered 'substantial plumes' of methane floating through the atmosphere of Mars. The discovery indicates Mars is either biologically or geologically active.     Full story

 

Dateline - 14 January 2009:   New Moon Ares V rocket

NASA's next great Moon rocket promises to do more than land astronauts on the Moon. In its spare time, it could revolutionize the science of astronomy.     Full story

 

Dateline - 10 January 2009:   New comet approaching

Comet Lulin (C/2007 N3), discovered in 2007 at Lulin Observatory by a collaborative team of Taiwanese and Chinese astronomers, is swinging around the sun and approaching the Earth. The photogenic comet has a bright tail and an 'anti-tail', and is visible in mid-sized backyard telescopes. On January 10 it is on the boundary between the constellations Scorpius and Libra. It rises above the east-south-eastern horizon at about 1.30 am, and should be faintly visible through binoculars about 30 degrees above the eastern horizon at 4 am.

The comet is accelerating as it moves westwards through the zodiac, and will cross into Virgo on February 11 at magnitude 6.7, becoming observable before midnight.

At closest approach on February 23, Comet Lulin is expected to brighten to magnitude 6.0, bordering on naked-eye visibility. At this time, the comet will have moved into the constellation Leo, and will be in the vicinity of the planet Saturn (from our perspective). It will be visible in the evenings from that time on. As this is possibly its first trip to the inner solar system, it could be that Comet Lulin will brighten more than expected. Watch this page for updates.

On March 6 the comet will be in the vicinity of the Praesepe star cluster in Cancer, and it will pass into Gemini on March 11. In late April it will stop moving westwards, and will head east with respect to the starry background, as the Sun and Moon do.

Click here for sky maps, pictures and more information. This will take you to the Spaceweather website.  If there is no information there on your current date, use the archive section at upper right to check out other dates from January 10, 2009 on.

Dateline - 8 January 2009:   Biggest and brightest Full Moon of 2009 this weekend

The biggest full Moon of 2009 is coming this weekend. As the Moon's path around the Earth is elliptical, it comes closer to us once a month, and moves further away two weeks later. The point of closest approach is called 'perigee', and the point of furthest distance, 'apogee'. This month, the perigee distance is 357 506 km (occurring on January 10), and the apogee distance is 406 123 km, (occurring on January 23). If the Full Moon occurs when the Moon is at its closest, then it appears bigger and brighter than normal. The opposite is true if the Full Moon coincides with apogee.

This month the Full Moon occurs on January 11, only  16 hours and 42 minutes after perigee. That means that this month's Full Moon is a 'perigee Moon', and is as much as 30% brighter than lesser Moons we'll see for the rest of the year (30% is a figure quoted on the internet - other sources calculate the difference as 18.5%.)  The smallest Full Moon in 2009 will occur on July 7, an 'apogee Moon'. The next perigee Moon after this month's will be on January 30, 2010.     Full story

 

Dateline - 2 January 2009:   First Meteor Shower for 2009

The annual Quadrantid meteor shower peaks on January 3 when Earth enters a stream of debris from shattered comet 2003 EH1. The timing of the encounter favours observers in western North America and across the Pacific Ocean who could see dozens to hundreds of meteors during the dark hours before sunrise this Saturday morning.   Click  here  for a sky map and more information.

 

Dateline - 22 December 2008:   Saturn's rings are nearly edge-on

The planet Saturn is doing something rare and beautiful this holiday season. Find out what in  today's story .

 

Dateline - 12 December 2008:   Geminids meteor swarm arrives tonight

WEEKEND METEORS: The Earth is entering a stream of debris from extinct comet 3200 Phaethon, and this is causing the annual Geminid meteor shower. The shower is expected to peak on December 13 and 14. Normally, as many as 100 meteors per hour shoot out of the constellation Gemini, but this year a bright Moon will interfere with the display, reducing hourly counts to only 20 or so. It could still be a nice show. For best results, watch the sky from 10 pm local time on Saturday night (December 13) until dawn on Sunday morning (December 14).    Read story

BIGGEST FULL MOON OF THE YEAR: The Moon that's causing trouble for the Geminid display happens to be biggest full Moon of 2008, as much as 14% wider and 30% brighter than lesser Moons we've seen earlier this year. An astronomer would say this is a 'perigee Moon' because it occurs at perigee, the side of the Moon's elliptical orbit closest to Earth. Go outside tonight and take a look. The meteor rate may be low, but the lunar beauty index is off the charts.    Read story

 

Dateline - 10 December 2008:   Progress on the James Webb Space Telescope

From humble beginnings in a Utah beryllium mine to the most advanced laboratories in the world, the mirrors of NASA's next great observatory are taking an incredible journey to space.     Full story

 

Dateline - 6 December 2008:   Spectacular fireball seen over Colorado

Last night, a fireball one hundred times brighter than the full Moon lit up the sky near Colorado Springs, Colorado. Astronomer Chris Peterson photographed the event using an all-sky video camera dedicated to meteor studies. "In seven years of operation, this is the brightest fireball I've ever recorded. I estimate the terminal explosion at magnitude -18." Meteors this bright are called superbolides; they are caused by small (metre-class) asteroids and are likely to pepper the ground with meteorites when they explode.    Read story and watch movie 

(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 - 4 December 2008:   Leonids may make a great display next November

Astronomers from Caltech and NASA are predicting a near-storm of Leonids in 2009 based on a surprising outburst of meteors just two weeks ago.     Full story

 

Dateline - 24 November 2008:   International Space Station lost toolbag is visible from Earth

A backpack-sized tool bag inadvertently dropped from the International Space Station last week is orbiting Earth and has been sighted from the ground. The tool bag is surprisingly bright, about 6th or 7th magnitude, which makes it an easy target for binoculars or a small telescope. Today's edition of Spaceweather.com offers observing tips, sighting reports and a movie of the bag in orbit.     Full story and movie of the bag as seen from the ground

 

Dateline - 24 November 2008:   Spectacular meteor seen in Canada

Here are some views of the meteor seen over Canada a few days ago:     TV news report       Police patrol car camera footage

 

Dateline - 19 November 2008:   Mysterious source of cosmic rays thought to be nearby

An international team of researchers has discovered a puzzling surplus of high-energy electrons bombarding Earth from space. The source of these cosmic rays is unknown, but it must be close to the solar system and it could be made of dark matter.      Full story

 

Dateline - 13 November 2008:   HST photographs large planet orbiting the star Fomalhaut

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has taken the first visible-light snapshot of a planet circling another star. The planet, called 'Fomalhaut b', orbits the bright southern star Fomalhaut. This star lies 25 light-years from Earth and is surrounded by a disc of dust. The planet lies 2.9 million kilometres inside the disc's outer edge, and completes an orbit of Fomalhaut every 872 years. Kepler's third law can be used to provide the radius of the orbit.     Full story

 

Dateline - 10 November 2008:   New meteor showers discovered

NASA astronomers have set up a monitoring station to scan the night sky for unknown or unexpected meteor showers--and they're finding more than they bargained for. In only two months of observing, the newly commissioned system has captured a flurry of meteors from an unknown comet and an object from the asteroid belt exploding like a quarter of a tonne of TNT. See the movies in  today's story.

 

Dateline - 6 November 2008:   Taurids Meteor Shower is underway

The Earth is now encountering the annual Taurids meteor shower and it could be a good show. 2008 is a 'swarm year' for the Taurids. Between November 5 and 12, the Earth is due to pass through an unusually dense swarm of gritty debris from parent comet 2P/Encke. When a similar encounter happened in 2005, sky watchers observed a slow drizzle of midnight fireballs for nearly two weeks. Whether 2008 will be as good as 2005, however, remains to be seen. In 2005, the swarm encounter was more central -  Earth passed through the middle of the cloud. In 2008, forecasters believe we are closer to the outskirts. How much this will affect the shower, no one knows. The best time to look is during the hours soon after midnight when the constellation Taurus is high in the sky. The presence of a bright Moon will intrude by November 12.

Click  here  for sky maps and photographs of the ongoing shower.

 

Dateline - 1 November 2008:   Spectacular satellite re-entry possible

More than a year ago, in July 2007, International Space Station astronauts threw an obsolete, refrigerator-sized ammonia reservoir overboard. Ever since, the  630 kg piece of space junk has been circling Earth in a decaying orbit, and now it is about to re-enter. If predictions are correct, the 'Early Ammonia Servicer' (EAS for short) will turn into a brilliant fireball as it disintegrates in Earth's atmosphere on Monday, 3rd November. Uncertainties in the exact re-entry time are so great (plus or minus 15 hours at the time of this alert) that it is impossible to pinpoint where the fireball will appear. At the moment, every continent except Antarctica has some favourable ground tracks.

Readers should check this  Satellite Tracker  for possible overflights. Before reentry, the EAS will seem about as bright as a 2nd or 3rd magnitude star, similar to the stars of Sagittarius. During re-entry, the disintegrating reservoir could light up like a full Moon. Flyby predictions should be regarded as approximate because the orbital elements of the EAS are now changing so rapidly. Updates will be posted  here .

 

Dateline - 21 October 2008:   Orionid meteor display tonight

If you wake up in the early hours of Wednesday, Oct. 22, set aside 15 minutes or so to look at the sky around Orion. You might see some meteors. The annual Orionid meteor shower, caused by dusty debris from Halley's Comet, is peaking today and tomorrow. Little was expected of this year's display because a bright Last Quarter Moon nearby, causing an interfering glare. Surprisingly, however, sky watchers on Oct. 20 witnessed 15 or more Orionids per hour, many of them brighter than first magnitude stars. If this stronger-than-expected display spills into Wednesday, you might be glad to wake up early. Check   here   for updates and a sky map.

 

Dateline - 20 October 2008:   Puzzling gamma-ray bursts discussed today

A curiously short-lived type of gamma-ray burst has astronomers puzzled. Leading experts discuss the clues at today's 6th Gamma-ray Burst Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.      Full story

 

Dateline - 17 October 2008:   New kind of pulsar discovered

NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has discovered a new kind of pulsar that hints at a previously unsuspected population of stars waiting to be found in the Milky Way.      Full story

 

Dateline - 16 October 2008:   What causes gamma-ray bursts ?

More than four decades after they were discovered, gamma-ray bursts continue to mystify astrophysicists. Next week, experts from 25 countries will converge on Huntsville, Alabama, to discuss and debate clues to the biggest explosions since the Big Bang itself.     Full story

 

Dateline - 10 October 2008:   The day the world didn't end

Last month, when scientists switched on the Large Hadron Collider, the world did not come to an end. In this story, a particle physicist explains why not - and why the Earth is safe from destruction by black holes when the collider is reactivated in the months ahead.     Full story 

 

Dateline - 9 October 2008:   Lunar telescopes with liquid mirrors ?

A team of internationally renowned astronomers and opticians may have found a way to make 'unbelievably large' telescopes on the Moon.     Full story

 

Dateline - 7 October 2008:   New photographs of Mercury:

Yesterday, NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft flew past Mercury, capturing high-resolution images of the innermost planet's previously unseen landscape. Amazing first photos are arriving at Earth now.     Full story

 

Dateline - 6 October 2008:   Asteroid on collision course with Earth:

A small, newly-discovered asteroid named 2008 TC3 is approaching Earth and it is possible that it will enter our atmosphere on October 7. Measuring only a few metres across, the space rock poses no threat to people or structures on the ground, but it should create a spectacular fireball, releasing about a kiloton of energy as it disintegrates and explodes in the high atmosphere. At least one expert estimates that atmospheric entry will occur on October 7 at 12:46 pm over northern Sudan. Click  here  for more information and updates to this developing story.

 

Dateline - 1 October 2008:   Flyby of Mercury next Monday:

NASA's Messenger spacecraft is returning to Mercury. Next Monday, October 6, the probe will conduct the second of three planned flybys and photograph most of Mercury's remaining unseen surface.     Full story

 

Dateline - 25 September 2008:   Three Chinese astronauts in orbit:

China's Shenzhou 7 spacecraft carrying a 3-man crew lifted off today from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre and is now in Earth orbit. During the upcoming three-day mission, Chinese astronauts, called taikonauts, will launch a small satellite and conduct their country's first space walk. As they orbit Earth, Shenzhou 7 and the body of the rocket that launched it will be visible to the naked eye from many parts of the globe. Check  here  for Satellite Tracker viewing times.

 

Dateline - 23 September 2008:   The solar wind is becoming weaker:

Solar physicists have announced that the solar wind is losing pressure, hitting a 50-year record low for the Space Age. This development has repercussions across the solar system.    Full story

 

Dateline - 17 September 2008:   Movies of explosions on the Sun:

Japan's Hinode spacecraft is beaming back must-see movies of a spectacular solar phenomenon known as 'polar crown prominences.'    Full story

 

Dateline - 10 September 2008:   Unaided-eye gamma-ray burst:

Scientists are beginning to unravel the mystery of an extraordinary gamma-ray burst on March 19, 2008, which was visible to the unaided eye. It turns out the explosion was aimed directly at Earth.    Full story

 

Dateline - 9 September 2008:   Fireball outburst:

This morning, Sept. 9th, a surprising flurry of fireballs lit up the sky over eastern parts of the United States. All-sky cameras at the Marshall Space Flight Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, recorded 25+ meteors, most as bright as Jupiter or Venus. A preliminary analysis by NASA astronomers suggests this is an outburst of "September Perseids," a little-known shower that has erupted this way three times in the past century. Although the show is almost certainly over, sky watchers are advised to be on the lookout for more fireballs tonight and in the nights ahead; the September Perseids are not well understood and they could surprise us again.    More

 

Dateline - 2 September 2008:   New video shows lunar impacts:

Amateur astronomers watching the Perseid meteor shower last month saw meteoroids hitting not only Earth but also the Moon. The impacts, which they recorded using backyard telescopes and off-the-shelf video cameras, are featured here.

 

Dateline - 26 August 2008:   The new Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope begins operation:

Today, NASA revealed first light images and announced a new name for its latest space telescope.   Full story

 

Dateline - 25 August 2008:   Mysterious glowing clouds seen in our stratosphere:

High above Earth, astronauts on board the International Space Station have taken one of the best-ever photos of electric-blue noctilucent clouds. Their image, featured in today's story from Science@NASA, highlights a growing mystery: Where do these clouds come from and why are they spreading?    Full story

 

Dateline - 11 August 2008:   The search for water on the Moon continues:

NASA has plans to find water on the Moon by crashing a spacecraft into the lunar surface. The Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS for short) is on track for a 2009 launch and subsequent plunge into a crater near one of the Moon's poles. Amateur astronomers may be able to observe the impact through backyard telescopes.   Full story

 

Dateline - 13 July 2008:   Close approach by Asteroid 2008 BT18 on 14 July:

Large asteroid 2008 BT18 is gliding past Earth this weekend and astronomers have just discovered that it is a binary system. Radar images of the close-approaching space rock reveal two components, a 600 meter primary and a 200+ meter secondary. Experienced amateur astronomers in the southern hemisphere may be able to photograph the double-rock using backyard telescopes and CCD cameras on July 14th when 2008 BT18 makes its closest approach to Earth (2 million km). The asteroid will flit through Canis Major, heading south, glowing like a 13th magnitude star. Click  here  for radar images and ephemerides.

 

Dateline - 9 July 2008:   Jupiter's Great Red Spot overwhelms Little Red Spot ?

Jupiter reaches maximum brilliance this week, on July 9th, when it makes its closest approach to Earth for all of 2008. At sunset, look to the south-south-east for a beacon of light brighter than any star. That is Jupiter rising for an all-night transit across the sky, passing directly overhead at midnight. During this time of closest approach, Jupiter makes a wonderful target for backyard telescopes. Even small telescopes reveal the planet's cloud belts, its four largest moons, and the Great Red Spot, an anti-cyclone twice as wide as Earth. Just a few days ago, the Great Red Spot ran over a sibling, the Little Red Spot, and may have destroyed the smaller storm. Amateur images of the collision are featured  here.

Dateline - 3 July 2008:   New discoveries about Mercury

Mercury's magnetic field is "alive." Volcanic vents ring the planet's giant Caloris basin while the planet itself is surrounded by a plasma nebula of surprising complexity. These are just a few of the new discoveries made by NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft and reported in a special July 4th issue of Science magazine.    Full story

 

Dateline - 30 June 2008:   The Tunguska blast in Siberia was exactly 100 years ago

A century after the Tunguska event in Siberia, scientists review what they've learned about the mysterious blast from the heavens.    Full story

 

Dateline - 26 June 2008:   Working solar sail to be placed in Earth orbit

This summer, NASA engineers will try to realize a dream older than the Space Age itself: the deployment of a working solar sail in Earth orbit. The name of the sail is NanoSail-D and it is scheduled for launch onboard a SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket as early as July 29, 2008.     Full story

 

Dateline - 20 June 2008:   The retrieved Surveyor 3 robotic scoop reveals lunar secrets

In 1967, Surveyor 3 landed on the Moon. Two years later, Apollo astronauts visited the little unmanned spacecraft and brought pieces of it home to Earth. Now, a portion of Surveyor's robotic arm, the scoop it used to sample moondust, is teaching researchers some long-lost secrets.    Full story

 

Dateline - 16 June 2008:   See the 'large Moon' illusion on June 18

Sometimes you just can't believe your eyes. This week is one of those times. Check out the full Moon on June 18 and prepare to be deceived!    Full story

 

Dateline - 11 June 2008:   New orbiting space telescope launched

NASA's Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST for short) left Earth today onboard a Delta II rocket. "The entire GLAST Team is elated," reports program manager Kevin Grady of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre. "The observatory is now on-orbit and all systems continue to operate as planned."  Read today's Science@NASA story to learn about some of the exciting new science GLAST is expected to accomplish.     Full story

 

Dateline - 10 June 2008:   Space probe to visit the Sun

NASA has a daring new mission on the drawing board: Solar Probe Plus, a spacecraft tough enough to visit the sun itself.     Full story

 

Dateline - 27 May 2008:   Massive CME explosion on the Sun

Imagine a billion-ton cloud of gas launching itself off the surface of the sun and then ... doing a cartwheel. That's exactly what happened on April 9, 2008, when a coronal mass ejection or 'CME' pirouetted over the sun's limb in full view of an international fleet of spacecraft. The cartwheel set off a chain of events that amazed even veteran solar physicists.     Full story, including video

 

Dateline - 25 May 2008:   Robot digger Phoenix Mars has landed safely on Mars

NASA's Phoenix spacecraft landed on Mars Sunday, May 25th, to begin three months of examining an arctic site chosen for its likelihood of having frozen water within reach of the lander's robotic arm. Check today's story for details of the landing and first pictures beamed back from the landing site.    Full story

 

Dateline - 23 May 2008:   Robot digger Phoenix Mars set to land on the red planet in three days

NASA scientists hope to unlock some of the secrets regarding water on Mars this weekend, when they try to land a robot spacecraft in the planet's unexplored arctic region.  The three-legged Phoenix Mars, with its miniature backhoe, will attempt to dig up to a metre below the Martian topsoil in a search for underground ice.     Full story

 

Dateline - 21 May 2008:   NASA records 100th meteor hitting the Moon

NASA astronomers have been watching the Moon to see how often meteoroids crash into the lunar surface and they've just video-recorded their 100th explosion. This surprisingly bountiful data-set allows researchers to start drawing conclusions about when, where, and how often the Moon gets hit.     Full story

 

Dateline - 14 May 2008:   Where are the Milky Way's missing supernovae ?

For many years, astronomers have been puzzled by something missing in the Milky Way galaxy: exploding stars. Supernovae are supposed to appear two or three times every century, but none has been seen since the year 1680. Where are they? At long last, one of the 'missing supernovae' has been found.     Full story

 

Dateline - 8 May 2008:   A new search for planets outside the Solar System

A NASA-supported sky survey set to begin in 2008 could dramatically increase the number of known planets outside our solar system.     Full story

 

Dateline - 25 April 2008:   Behaviour of whipped cream in space ?

An experiment in space has shed new light on the puzzling physics of some everyday substances such as blood, ketchup, motor oil and whipped cream.      Full story

 

Dateline - 10 April 2008:   New pictures of Martian moon Phobos

3D MOON OF MARS: NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft has photographed Martian moon Phobos in color and 3D, revealing landslides, crater chains, long grooves and a strange splash of blue.     See pictures (check the archive for April 10 after that date)

 

Dateline - 27 March 2008:   Looking for water on the Moon

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, due to launch this year, will play some crafty tricks to find water on the moon. These include using starlight to see into deep, dark craters and checking the temperature with a device known as 'Diviner'.     Full story

 

Dateline - 21 March 2008:   Major cosmic explosion

Two nights ago, astronomers observed a cosmic explosion so intense it was visible to the naked eye from a distance of 7.5 billion light years.     Full story

 

Dateline - 19 March 2008:   Gravity waves cause tornadoes ?

New research by NASA-supported scientists shows how atmospheric gravity waves, the kind we often see rippling in clouds overhead, can hit a thunderstorm and turn it into a deadly tornado.     Full story

 

Dateline - 18 March 2008:   Saturn's ring is disappearing

Amateur astronomers around the world are watching something happening to Saturn. The planet's rings are rapidly narrowing and before too long they will be reduced to a wafer-thin line invisible to backyard telescopes. What's going on?    Full story

 

Dateline - 7 March 2008:   Dark haloes discovered around craters on Mercury

Scientists studying the harvest of photographs from NASA's Messenger's fly-by of Mercury on January 14 have found several craters with strange dark haloes and other unusual features.    Full story

 

Dateline - 3 March 2008:   An avalanche in progress is observed on Mars

A NASA spacecraft in orbit around Mars has photographed an avalanche in action near the Red Planet's north pole.    Full story

 

Dateline - 30 January 2008:   New data from Mercury

NASA's Messenger spacecraft has beamed back some surprising new data from the planet Mercury. Highlights include a weird crater nicknamed 'the Spider,' a planetary tail of hydrogen atoms, and measurements that show that the giant Caloris basin is even bigger than researchers imagined.    Full story

 

Dateline - 24 January 2008:   New space telescope due for launch next May

NASA is preparing to launch a new space telescope named GLAST to study the most violent explosions in the history of our Universe.    Full story

 

Dateline - 29 December 2007:   Comet 8P / Tuttle to encounter galaxy M33

After a 13.6 year absence, Comet 8P/Tuttle is once again travelling through the inner solar system. On January 1 and 2, 2008, it makes its closest approach to Earth - only 40 million kilometres away. The emerald-coloured comet will brighten to a predicted magnitude of 5.8, visible to the unaided eye from dark-sky sites and a fine target for backyard telescopes anywhere.

Two nights before closest approach, on December 30 and 31, something extraordinary will happen: Comet 8P/Tuttle has a beautiful close encounter with spiral galaxy M33. The comet and the galaxy may even overlap! This is a can't-miss opportunity for astrophotographers around the world.    Full story

 

Dateline - 21 December 2007:   Mars may be struck by passing asteroid

NASA-funded astronomers are monitoring a Tunguska-sized asteroid that will pass within 50,000 kilometres of Mars on January 30, 2008. Based on data currently available, the space rock has a 1-in-75 chance of actually hitting Mars and blasting a crater more than a kilometre wide.    Full story

 

Dateline - 18 December 2007:   Black hole jet aimed at nearby planets?

A powerful jet from a supermassive black hole is blasting a nearby galaxy and possibly causing profound problems for planets in the jet's path.    Full story

 

Dateline - 12 December 2007:   Geminids meteor shower has started

Earth has entered a stream of dusty debris from asteroid 3200 Phaethon and, as a result, the annual Geminid meteor shower is underway. Sky watchers around the world are reporting a slow drizzle of late-night meteors at least as bright as the stars of the Big Dipper. The best is yet to come: Forecasters expect the shower to peak on Saturday, December 15. No matter where you live, watch the sky between local midnight and dawn; people outdoors before sunrise on Saturday might see dozens to hundreds of shooting stars. Depending on the details of Earth's encounter with Phaethon's debris stream, the shower could continue into the weekend as well.  Click  here  for updates and full coverage including sky maps, photos and eye-witness reports.

 

Dateline - 30 November 2007:   Why won't it rain ?

All over Australia, drought-weary farmers and towns-people alike have one thing on their minds: "I wish it would rain!" According to NASA, what they should be wishing for is "more streamflow." Find out why in  this story

 

Dateline - 28 November 2007:   A cosmic cannonball

Astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have discovered one of the fastest stars ever seen - a 'cosmic cannonball' that is challenging theories to explain its blistering speed. The name of the star is RX J0822-4300. It's a neutron star created by the Puppis A supernova explosion about 3700 years ago. Three Chandra observations clearly show the neutron star moving away from the centre of the blast. Speed = 5 million kph! At this rate, RX J0822-4300 is destined to escape the Milky Way just millions of years from now.     Full story

 

Dateline - 19 November 2007:   Comet 17P/Holmes is now the largest object in the Solar System

Comet 17P/Holmes is an extremely faint periodic comet that returns every 6.88 years without anyone taking much notice. Its current appearance this year has gained it world-wide attention, for it exploded on 24 October last. A vast sphere of dust and debris was ejected in an ever-growing cloud. Though the comet’s head is only some tens of kilometres across, the cloud rapidly reached the size of Jupiter by November 9 grew larger than the Sun. It has continued to enlarge until it is now nearly two million kilometres in diameter.

Before the eruption, the comet could only be seen through large telescopes, but the explosion caused it to brighten a millionfold within 36 hours, making it an obvious naked-eye object. Five weeks later, it is still easily seen from the Sunshine Coast without optical aid. No-one knows how long it will remain visible, or even if there will be a second explosion, as occurred in 1892 and led to its discovery by Edwin Holmes.

Since the explosion was first detected, the comet has continued to expand dramatically. It is now the largest object in the solar system and has reached a size in the night sky a little larger than the diameter of the Moon. As it is 240 million kilometres from us and further away than Mars, this is quite amazing. How a small comet could produce such an enormous cloud has not yet been explained. It is still growing in size.

In mid-November Comet Holmes experienced a ‘disconnection event’ - its faint, beautiful blue ion tail become detached from its head. This disruption does not necessarily signal a new outburst involving Comet Holmes. Comet tails can be disconnected by gusts of solar wind which trigger magnetic storms around the comet similar to the geomagnetic storms which cause aurorae on Earth. Such a storm and disconnection was observed earlier this year in the tail of Comet Encke.

Is it really the largest object in the Solar System? In diameter, yes, but of course the Sun is the most massive object by several orders of magnitude. Some comets produce tails many millions of kilometres long, so they would be longer, but not 'bigger'.

Where can you find it?

Comet Holmes can be found this week and the next in the constellation Perseus, just above the star Mirfak. Because of the explosion, it is nearly spherical in shape. It is half a handspan above the northern horizon at 11:20 pm on November 20 (4 minutes earlier each succeeding night after that), and looks like a dim ghost of the Full Moon. The comet is quite spectacular through binoculars or a small telescope.

Click  here  for sky maps and the latest images. 

Click  here  for photographs taken from Starfield Observatory.

 

Dateline - 29 October 2007:   Comet 17P/Holmes has exploded

Last week, Comet 17P/Holmes shocked sky watchers around the world with a sudden million-fold increase in brightness. It literally exploded into view, rapidly becoming a naked eye "star" in the constellation Perseus. Since then the comet has expanded dramatically. It is now physically larger than the planet Jupiter and subtends an angle in the night sky similar to the Moon's Sea of Tranquility, the right eye of the "Man in the Moon." Photographers, this amazing comet is an excellent target for off-the-shelf digital cameras and backyard telescopes. It grows visibly from night to night and no one knows how large it will become.  Click  here  for sky maps and the latest images.

 

Dateline - 24 October 2007:   Comet 17P/Holmes is erupting

Astronomers in Japan and Europe report that Comet 17P/Holmes is undergoing a spectacular eruption. The magnitude 17 comet has brightened by a factor of 500 000 or more during the past 24 hours becoming a naked eye object in the evening sky. This may signify a breakup of the comet's core or a rich vein of ice suddenly exposed to sunlight - no one knows.  Look for a yellow magnitude 2.5 fuzzball in the constellation Perseus (magnitude 2.5 means about the same brightness as the four stars that form the Great Square of Pegasus).

On October 25 the comet will be between the stars Mirfak and Capella, 13 degrees above the northern horizon at 1 am. It is gradually moving south, and will be within half a degree of the star Algol on 25 January 2008. Comet 17P/Holmest will be at its closest approach to the Sun in July 2008. On the 23rd of that month, it will pass quite close to Castor, but the Sun will be only 14 degrees away.

At present the comet looks more like a star than a comet; as it does not have a discernable tail. It is possible that a tail might develop if the outburst continues. Click  here  for a sky map, photos and updates.

 

Dateline - 12 October 2007:   Lakes discovered on Saturn's largest moon Titan

The Cassini spacecraft has discovered three new lakes near the south pole of Saturn's moon Titan. These strange bodies are filled not with water but liquid methane and ethane. Researchers are also studying a lake near Titan's north pole larger than Lake Superior.     Full story

 

Dateline - 11 October 2007:   Ever seen an undular bore?  Here's one....

Last week, cameras in Iowa captured a giant atmospheric wave passing over Des Moines - see the movie here. Atmospheric scientists believe these waves, called undular bores, may be more common and important than previously thought.

 

Dateline - 1 October 2007:   Comet Encke loses its tail

Earlier this year, Comet Encke was passing a little too close to the Sun when a coronal mass ejection (CME) hit the comet and ripped off its tail. NASA's STEREO spacecraft was watching and recorded a must-see movie.    Full story

 

Dateline - 27 September 2007:   New spacecraft leaves to explore two of the largest asteroids

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has left Earth on a mission to explore the mysterious giant asteroids Ceres and Vesta. Click  here  to find out some of the scientific reasons for making the trip.

 

Dateline - 26 September 2007:   A clear look at the Deep Impact crater on Comet Tempel 1

Two years ago, NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft blasted a hole in Comet Tempel 1, offering researchers their first look inside a comet. One small problem: the cloud of debris was so thick no one could clearly see the crater. But now the dust has cleared and another NASA spacecraft is returning to the scene to examine the hole Deep Impact wrought.    Full story 

 

Dateline - 21 September 2007:   Cave 'skylights' spotted on Mars

NASA's Mars orbiters have spotted 'skylights' apparently leading to cavernous underground spaces on Mars. The discovery is fuelling interest in potential underground habitats and sparking searches for caverns elsewhere on the Red Planet.    Full story

 

Dateline - 27 August 2007:   Astronomers look for lunar impacts during eclipse of the moon

On Tuesday evening, August 28, a team of astronomers and engineers at the Marshall Space Flight Center will attempt something never done before - to observe meteoroids hitting the Moon and exploding during a lunar eclipse. This will allow them to explore an elusive and mysterious population of "Helion" meteoroids coming from the direction of the sun.    Full story

 

Dateline - 15 August 2007:   Famous variable star Mira has a tail

Astronomers have discovered something they've never seen before: a star with a tail like a comet. Even more amazing is the fact that the newfound tail is attached to one of the most popular stars in the sky, a red giant named Mira. Amateur and professional astronomers have been watching Mira for 400 years and only recently has a NASA space telescope spotted its massive tail.    Full story

 

Dateline - 27 July 2007:   Supermassive black holes in a feeding frenzy

Deep in the heart of the Milky Way galaxy lurks an extraordinary black hole. Astronomers call it "supermassive." It has been feeding on the core of our galaxy so long, the hole has accumulated more than a million Suns of mass inside its pinprick-sized belly. Now, astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have caught some extra-galactic supermassive black holes engaged in a piranha-like feeding frenzy.    Full story

 

Dateline - 20 July 2007:   Severe dust storm on Mars causing problems for Mars rovers

A severe dust storm is underway on Mars, causing an energy crisis for NASA's Mars rovers. Dust in the atmosphere over Opportunity has blocked 99 percent of direct sunlight, leaving only the limited diffuse sky light to power the rover.    Full story 

 

Dateline - 16 July 2007:   Is there a better way to make rockets slow down for a landing on the Moon ?

Accelerating from 0 to 100 kph, then slowing down for a stop light is no problem for an ordinary car. But if you were piloting a rocketship, it wouldn't be so easy. Most rocket engines are designed to burn full-on (liftoff!) or full-off (coasting through space) with no in-between. And that can be a problem - namely, how do you slow down to land this thing? In today's story we learn how engineers are developing technology for throttling next-generation lunar landers.    Full story 

 

Dateline - 28 June 2007:   Mars Rover explores large crater

NASA's Mars rover Opportunity is scheduled to begin a descent down a rock-paved slope into the Red Planet's massive Victoria Crater. This carries real risk for the long-lived robotic explorer, but NASA and the Mars Rover science team expect it to provide valuable science.    Full story

 

Dateline - 25 June 2007:   NASA plans giant space telescopes

NASA's next Moon rocket is still on the drawing board, but already scientists are dreaming up big new things to do with it, such as launching giant telescopes into space.    Full story

 

Dateline - 15 June 2007:   Probe to visit two strange asteroids

This summer, NASA plans to launch a robotic probe to visit two strange and giant asteroids--one is covered with ice while the other may have been blasted by an ancient supernova. The tales these asteroids tell may reveal the true beginnings of our solar system.    Full story

 

Dateline - 30 May 2007:   'Awesome upheaval' in a massive cluster of galaxies detected

Astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have discovered an exceptionally dramatic event in the nearby Universe. They're not sure what caused it, but they've narrowed it down to two exciting possibilites.    Full story

 

Dateline - 30 May 2007:   Blue Moon in North America on May 31, in Australia on June 30

Tomorrow evening, May 31, the Moon over North America will become full for the second time in the month of May. According to folklore, that makes it a blue Moon. But will it really be blue? Believe it or not, blue-coloured Moons are possible. Read today's story for a look at the folklore and physics of blue Moons.

The Full Moon referred to above will not occur until 11:03 am on June 1 in eastern Australia, so it will not be a 'blue Moon' for us. However, the following Full Moon will occur at 11:40 pm on June 30. This will give Australians two Full Moons in the one calendar month, so folklore has it that the June 30 Full Moon will be a 'blue Moon' for us.    Full story

 

Dateline - 25 May 2007:   Predicting storms on the Sun

A scientist using the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) has found a way to forecast solar radiation storms. The new method offers as much as one hour advance warning, giving astronauts time to seek shelter and ground controllers time to safeguard their satellites when a storm is approaching.   Full story

 

Dateline - 7 May 2007:   Asteroid Apollo flyby on May 8

This week, a famous asteroid is flying past Earth: 1862 Apollo. Discovered in 1932, Apollo was the first asteroid recognized to cross Earth's orbit. Its discovery, and the subsequent discovery of many others like Apollo, helped scientists understand that the threat of asteroid impacts didn't end with the dinosaurs; it's a modern problem, too. There's no danger of a collision this time. Apollo will be about 10.7 million kilometres away at closest approach on May 8th. Southern hemisphere astronomers with big backyard telescopes may be able to photograph the 1.7 km-wide asteroid and its tiny 75 metre-wide moon gliding through the constellations Microscopium and Grus.  Click here for ephemerides and updates.

 

Dateline - 7 May 2007:   Brightest supernova ever recorded

Astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes have recorded the brightest supernova ever seen. The explosion came from a star about 150 times more massive than the Sun located in a distant galaxy. What researchers have learned from the blast suggests that a similar explosion could happen soon here in our own Milky Way.   Full story

 

Dateline - 4 May 2007:   New type of rocket engine developed by NASA

NASA-supported scientists and engineers have successfully tested a methane-powered rocket engine. The firing was not only remarkably beautiful (a must-see movie is featured in today's story) but also may herald a new type of spacecraft that one day roams the outer solar system gathering fuel from planets and moons that it visits.   Full story

 

Dateline - 1 May 2007:  Stunning new images of Jupiter and its moons

NASA has released stunning new images of Jupiter and its moons taken by the New Horizons spacecraft. Highlights include a movie of a volcanic eruption on Jupiter's moon Io; a night-time shot of auroras and lava on Io; a colour photo of the 'Little Red Spot' churning in Jupiter's cloudtops; and images of small moons herding dust and boulders through Jupiter's faint rings. This new gallery is a must-see.   Full story

 

Dateline - 24 April 2007:  Sunspot produces a tremendous flare on the Sun, the explosion is captured as a movie

Last December, Japan's Hinode spacecraft observed a massive explosion on the sun. Researchers analysing the data have produced a must-see movie of the flare's magnetic underpinnings.   Full story

 

Dateline - 19 April 2007:  Australian astronomer discovers a 'Red Square' in space

Dr Peter Tuthill, an Australian astrophysicist leading an international team of researchers, has made an amazing discovery of a square nebula surrounding the peculiar red star MWC 922.   Full story     More

 

Dateline - 12 April 2007:  Supermassive black hole eclipsed

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has observed a remarkable eclipse of a supermassive black hole, allowing a disk of hot matter swirling around the hole to be measured.   Full story

 

Dateline - 8 April 2007:  Venus and the Pleiades

Venus and the Pleiades are converging for a close encounter on Wednesday, April 11. At closest approach, the planet and the star cluster will be about 2 degrees apart, tight enough to fit behind your upturned thumb held at arm's length. They're an odd couple. Venus is extravagantly bright while the Pleiades are faint and delicate, yet together they make a pretty ensemble suitable for photography, binoculars or simple naked-eye viewing. Watch the western sky after sunset in the nights ahead to see them drawing together.

 

Dateline - 28 March 2007:  First steps to Mars

The landing site is unknown, the rockets are still on the drawing board, and some of the astronauts haven't even been born yet. Nevertheless, NASA's journey to Mars has already begun. The first steps are being taken onboard the International Space Station.   Full story

 

Dateline - 20 March 2007:  Another new comet discovered from Australia

GREEN COMET:  There's a new comet in the southern hemisphere: Comet Lovejoy (C/2007 E2). Terry Lovejoy of Australia discovered it on March 15th using, remarkably, not a telescope but only an off-the-shelf digital camera. The green comet is too dim to see with the naked eye, but it is a nice target for backyard telescopes. After five days of monitoring, the comet's orbit is now known with some accuracy. It will be at its brightest, visual magnitude 7.4, in mid-April, when it will be passing across the constellation Aquila.    Full story

 

Dateline - 14 March 2007:  Simulated impacts of meteoroids on the Moon

NASA scientists are shooting marbles at 16,000 mph--and destroying them, splat!--to learn what happens when meteoroids hit the Moon.   Full story

 

Dateline - 12 March 2007:  A transit of the Sun by the Moon, as seen from way out in space

No human has ever witnessed a solar eclipse quite like this: NASA's STEREO-B spacecraft was about a million miles from Earth last month when it photographed the Moon passing in front of the sun. The resulting movie looks like it came from an alien solar system.   Full story and movies  

 

Dateline - 9 March 2007:  New Horizons spacecraft photographs an amazing volcanic eruption on Jupiter's satellite Io

When the New Horizons spacecraft flew past Jupiter on Feb. 28 last, it photographed a volcanic eruption on Io that amazed even long-time experts in the field.   Full story

Other new photographs of Jupiter and its moons (including a close-up of the Little Red Spot that formed last year) are available here.

 

Dateline - 5 March 2007:  Two satellites programmed to dock automatically

Two satellites slated for launch this week are heading for an extraordinary rendezvous in Earth orbit. The name of the mission is Orbital Express and its goal is to test futuristic technologies key to the exploration of the moon and Mars. The two satellites, the Autonomous Space Transport Robotic Operations (ASTRO) service vehicle, and the Next-generation serviceable satellite (NextSat), are scheduled to dock without any human intervention whatsoever.   Full story

 

Dateline - 26 February 2007:  Jupiter gives spacecraft a boost towards Pluto

En route to Pluto, NASA's New Horizons spacecraft is about to visit Jupiter, and while it's there, steal some velocity for the trip ahead.   Full story

 

Dateline - 21 February 2007:  Rocket explodes over Australia

On February 19th, late-night sky watchers across Australia witnessed a bright explosion followed by a debris cloud that hung in the sky for nearly an hour. At first a mystery, the source of the blast is now understood. It was a Russian Briz-M rocket booster misplaced in orbit last year by the failed launch of an Arabsat communications satellite. The fuel tanks of the Briz-M ruptured on Feb. 19th, producing a vivid naked-eye display and more than 1000 pieces of debris. Experts are calling this a "major breakup event," comparable to or even worse than last month's Chinese anti-sat test.  Click here for the full story, still pictures and a movie of the explosion.

 

Dateline - 20 February 2007:  The Sun's North Pole is not as hot as its South Pole

One pole of the sun is cooler than the other. That's the surprising conclusion just announced by scientists who have been analysing data from the ESA-NASA Ulysses spacecraft.   Full story

 

Dateline - 14 February 2007:  Going to school on the Moon

NASA has been exploring space for nearly half a century, yet there's one thing we still don't know: what is the best way to explore an alien planet? Discovering the most effective techniques is itself cutting-edge research. That's why NASA wants to use the moon as a "graduate school for exploration."   Full story

 

Dateline - 7 February 2007:  Target: the south pole of the Sun

Today, the ESA-NASA Ulysses spacecraft is flying over uncharted territory - the mysterious South Pole of the sun.  Full story

 

Dateline - 6 February 2007:  Evening Planets on display

A little before 7 pm tonight, go outside and look west. You'll see two planets beaming through the glow of sunset: Venus and Mercury. This is a great week to see the two planets together. Mercury reaches its maximum elongation (apparent distance) from the sun on Wednesday, Feb. 7th, making it unusually easy to see and a charming companion for always-bright Venus. Mercury will set before 7.30 pm and Venus before 8 pm. If you have a telescope, look a little less than a degree to the right of Venus on February 7 to find Uranus.

 

Dateline - 6 February 2007:  Comet McNaught is still visible in the early evening

This comet remains faintly visible to the unaided eye. Its tail as seen from country skies is about 20 degrees long. It remains an easy target for binoculars. Look low in the south-west at about 7.30 pm, about 10 degrees (half a handspan) above the theoretical horizon. The tail streams away to the upper left of the comet's head. The following links will take you to the relevant pages of the Spaceweather.com website:    Comet McNaught Photo Gallery    finder chart    ephemeris

Off-the-shelf digital cameras and 30+ second exposures continue to produce beautiful images.

A team of professional astronomers using the ESO's New Technology Telescope in Chile reports "strong spiral jets" emerging from the comet's nucleus.

 

Dateline - 24 January 2007:  The magnificent tail of Comet McNaught

The tail of Comet 200 P1 McNaught is now becoming harder to detect due to increasing moonlight. However, on January 20 and 21 it presented a wonderful sight, with over a dozen synchronic bands or rays visible. Click here for pictures taken from Nambour.  Click here for latest updates and photographs taken elsewhere.

 

Dateline - 19 January 2007:  The magnificent tail of Comet McNaught

Last night at sunset, motorists in South Africa pulled over to watch what seemed to be a bush fire. As the twilight deepened, however, they realized it was something else: the extravagant tail of Comet McNaught. Even experienced astronomers say they've never seen anything quite like it. McNaught's tail materializes at sunset in the southern hemisphere and is visible to the unaided eye as a majestic fan of pale streamers.

The comet itself is visible only from the southern hemisphere, but its tail sweeps all the way back into northern skies. People in California, Colorado and Hawaii have seen it peeking above the western horizon about an hour after sunset. This "northern tail" is faint but pretty, and resembles a pale aurora borealis. (Dark skies are absolutely required.)   Click here for photos, sky maps, ephemerides and updates.

 

Dateline - 18 January 2007:  Comet McNaught can be seen from the Southern Hemisphere

Comet McNaught is emerging from the glare of the sun and solar heating has turned it into a spectacular naked-eye comet. McNaught is visible from all parts of the Southern Hemisphere, sporting a curved tail and a head almost as bright as the planet Venus. At sunset, look just south of the point where the sun disappeared. Let's hope the cloudy weather on the Sunshine Coast clears enough to reveal the comet. Click here for more information and photographs.

 

 

WARNING !

Observers are reminded that it is extremely hazardous to look at the Sun at any time, and especially through binoculars or a telescope. Permanent damage to your eyesight can rapidly occur !   Welding glasses or exposed photographic film provide no protection from the burning infrared rays whatsoever. Do not look at the Sun when trying to find the comet for any reason, even momentarily !

 

 

Dateline - 18 January 2007:  The Moon and Venus

Mark your calendar. On Saturday evening, January 20th, the slender crescent Moon will be just beneath and to the left of the planet Venus. They will form a beautiful twosome in the western sky at sunset.  Hint: Look for the pair before the sky fades to black. Venus and the Moon surrounded by twilight-blue is a scene of special beauty.

 

Dateline - 17 January 2007:  Comet McNaught - how to find it

Click here to find full details about Comet McNaught and how to observe it before it fades.

  

Dateline - 13 January 2007:  Comet McNaught is now visible in daylight

Observers around the world are reporting that Comet McNaught is now visible in broad daylight. The comet is very close to the sun, so it is tricky to find. If you want to try, here's how to do it: Go outside and stand in the shadow of a building so that the glare of the sun is blocked out. Make a fist and hold it at arm's length. The comet is about one fist-width east of the sun, and is about as bright as Venus.

This weekend is a special time for Comet McNaught because it is making its closest approach to the sun. Solar heat causes the comet to vaporize furiously and brighten to daytime visibility. McNaught is now the brightest comet in more than 40 years, and it may become the brightest in centuries. Click here for photos and updates.

 

Dateline - 10 January 2007:  Comet McNaught is amazing observers in the Northern Hemisphere

Comet McNaught has continued to brighten as it approaches the sun and it is now the brightest comet in 30 years. For observers in the Northern Hemisphere, January 11 is probably the best time to see it. In the days ahead, Comet McNaught will pass the sun and emerge in good position for southern hemisphere viewing later this month. It will appear in the pre-dawn sky, rising just before the Sun. The further south an observer is, the better will be the view. Observers in Queensland will find the comet difficult to observe. Meanwhile, solar heating will continue to puff up the comet, causing it to brighten even more. It could become one of the brightest comets in centuries, visible even in daylit skies. Click here for photos and updates.

 

Dateline - 7 January 2007:  Bright comet approaching the Sun

Comet McNaught is plunging toward the sun and brightening dramatically. It is now visible to the unaided eye both at sunset and at dawn, but only for observers north of the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere. It is heading from Aquila towards Sagittarius. Amateur photographers have found that they can take pictures of the comet using off-the-shelf digital cameras with exposure times less than a second. The estimated visual magnitude is between 0 and -1, which means that it will become brighter than Sirius within a day or two. It has a gaseous tail which is visible in binoculars.

The long, dark mornings and evenings of Canada, Scandinavia and Alaska are ideal for viewing this comet so close to the Sun, but the comet has been sighted in other places, too, as far south as Kansas in the United States and Italy in Europe. From Australia, it is only in our sky during daylight hours at present, but is rapidly heading south towards the Sun.

Comet McNaught will be at its brightest on January 15, when it will be at its closest approach to the Sun. Then it will swing away, rapidly dimming from night to night. Unfortunately for us, it will then be in the pre-dawn sky, rising at the same time as the Sun. Its orbit away from the Sun will take it virtually along our horizon from morning to morning, making observations very difficult. Click here to receive up-to-date information.

 

Dateline - 3 January 2007:  Meteors exploding on the Moon

During the recent Geminid meteor shower, NASA astronomers watched at least five Geminid meteoroids hit the Moon and explode. Soon, they plan to release software that will help amateur astronomers see these explosions for themselves.  Full story

 

Dateline - 9 December 2006:  Sunspot explosion produces shock wave across Sun

From Spaceweather.com:  When sunspot 930 exploded on Dec. 6th, producing an X6-category flare, it also created a tsunami-like shock wave that rolled across the face of the sun, wiping out filaments and other structures in its path. An H-alpha telescope in New Mexico operated by the National Solar Observatory (NSO) recorded the action:

Credit: NSO/Optical Solar Patrol Network telescope

"These large scale blast waves occur infrequently, however, are very powerful," says Dr. K. S. Balasubramaniam of the National Solar Observatory. "They quickly propagate in a matter of minutes covering the whole sun and apparently sweeping away filamentary material." Researchers are unsure whether the filaments were blown off or were compressed so they were temporarily invisible. Get the full story from the NSO.

More images: from Gary Palmer of Los Angeles, California; from Eric Roel of Valle de Bravo, Mexico; from Katy and John Stetson of Falmouth, Maine; from Greg Piepol of Rockville, Maryland; from Robert Morlan of La Porte, Indiana; from Paul Haese of Adelaide, Australia.

 

Dateline - 1 December 2006:  Leonid meteors collide with the Moon

Meteoroids are hitting the Moon more often than anyone expected. That's the tentative conclusion of astronomers who last month saw two Leonids hit the Moon and explode. The full story includes a movie of one of the Leonid impacts.  Full story

 

Dateline - 28 November 2006:  Alignment of 3 Planets

Mark your calendar. On Dec. 8th through to the 12th, Jupiter, Mercury and Mars will form a tight triangle in the eastern sky at dawn. All three will fit together in the field of view of ordinary binoculars. (Mars is dim enough that binoculars may be required to see it.) Of special note is the morning of Dec. 10th when Jupiter and Mercury converge within 0.25 degrees of one another. The close, bright pair will be visible to the unaided eye--a fabulous sight in the rosy glow of sunrise.  Full story

 

Dateline - 28 November 2006:  A peculiar Sunspot has appeared

A strange-looking sunspot is emerging on the sun. It's shaped like a ring almost three times wider than Earth. Amateur astronomers with solar telescopes are encouraged to monitor this curious apparition. It may be little more than a novelty--but its definitely worth watching.  Full story

 

Dateline - 17 November 2006:  Satellite obtains superb pictures of the November 9 transit of Mercury

Using a high-resolution X-ray telescope, Japan's new Hinode spacecraft captured some unique and beautiful images of last week's transit of Mercury.  Full story and pictures

 

Dateline - 14 November 2006:  Possible rich Leonid meteor storm on November 19 / 20

Earth is heading for a cloud of comet dust that could produce an outburst of Leonid meteors next weekend. Unfortunately for observers in Australia, the main encounter, which could generate as many as 100 meteors per hour, will occur at about 2.45 pm on November 19. Observers in Europe and America will be in darkness and will have a better opportunity of seeing any possible meteor storm.  Full story

 

Dateline - 11 November 2006:  Four planets clustered around the Sun

FOUR PLANETS: Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Mercury are all crowded around the sun this weekend. The great conjunction is invisible to the human eye (too much sunlight), but the SOHO satellite can see it. The spacecraft's coronagraph is able to block the glare and reveal the planets. Live images and story

 

Dateline - 28 September 2006:  Harvest Moon on October 7

The Full Moon occurring just after the Autumn Equinox is known as the Harvest Moon in the Northern Hemisphere. This year it occurs on October 6 (North American time) or October 7 (Australian time). When the Harvest Moon rises on October 7, go outside. You may notice a few puzzling things.  Full story

 

Dateline - 21 September 2006:  Voyager 1 spacecraft still reporting back from 16 billion kilometres away

NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft was launched in 1977 on a path out of the Solar System to the stars. It is now well beyond Pluto, and has entered a new realm of space. It's beaming back some surprises.  Full story

 

Dateline - 18 September 2006:  Remarkable photograph of Atlantis and ISS transitting the Sun

On September 17, the space shuttle Atlantis undocked from the International Space Station (ISS). Amateur astronomer Thierry Legault photographed the two spacecraft separating directly in front of the sun. "I took this picture from Normandy, France, at 1340 UT on Sept. 17th while the shuttle was performing a 360° inspection of the ISS," says Legault. The photo shows the new 75 metre long set of solar panels installed on the ISS during the shuttle's eleven-day mission. To read the full story and see the image, click here and View archives for September 18, 2006.

 

Dateline - 30 August 2006:  Spacecraft due to collide with the Moon on September 3

A European spaceship SMART-1 is about to crash into the Moon. The impact is deliberate, as the spacecraft has almost run out of fuel. Amateur astronomers on the other side of the world may be able to observe the impact, but it will occur at 3.41 pm as seen from Nambour. Daylight will make the impact virtually impossible to detect.   Full story

 

Dateline - 25 August 2006:  And then there were eight.....  Pluto isn't what it used to be

It's official: Pluto has had its status as a regular Solar System planet taken away. "That's one less planet to have to remember," was the comment of an American teenager at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, when told the news. Another child responded, "At least Pluto the dog doesn't have to compete with the planet anymore," referring to the Disney cartoon character named after the planet. Walt Disney Co. spokesman Donn Walker said "Pluto is taking this news in his stride, and we have no reason to believe he might bite an astronomer."    

From the Planetary Society     BBC News     New York Times report     US ABC News report    Duluth News Tribune     Report on the IAU meeting

 

Dateline - 24 August 2006:  Which came first - Pluto the planet or Pluto,  Mickey Mouse's dog?

Venetia Burney, the girl who named the planet Pluto when aged 11, has an asteroid and an instrument on NASA's New Horizons spacecraft named after her. She has an interesting story to tell. (Venetia is now 87 and living in Epsom, England).  Follow these links to find out her story:   Wikipedia entry    New Horizons website    Interview with Venetia (includes audio version)     Pluto Today

 

Dateline - 23 August 2006:  Spacecraft encounters a 'dark comet'?

In 1967, NASA's Mariner 4 spacecraft was hit by a surprising flurry of meteoroids--a shower more intense than any Leonid meteor storm. Where did the meteoroids come from? It's been a mystery for 40 years. Now, astronomers may have found a solution: Mariner 4 had a close encounter with a 'dark comet'.   Full story

 

Dateline - 22 August 2006:  More planets in our Solar System?

On 24 August the International Astronomical Union (IAU) will meet in Prague (Czech Republic) to discuss a proposal to redefine the term 'planet' so as to include other objects beyond the traditional nine. In particular, the new definition would promote to planetary status the asteroid Ceres, Pluto's moon Charon, and the trans-Neptunian object 2003 UB313.  For more on this story, use these links:   Official IAU website     Wikipedia     NewScientistSpace     SpaceCom    BBC  

 

Dateline - 2 July 2006:  Movies taken during landing on Titan

On January 14, 2005 the Cassini spacecraft deployed the Huygens probe that descended to make a soft landing on Saturn's largest moon, Titan. Images obtained during the descent and landing have been processed into a movie running a little under five minutes. The movie also contains a rare transit of the Sun by the Earth and Moon. This was a particularly fortuitous circumstance, as such transits occur only twice in 1000 years. The movie has high resolution and totals 156 MB in size, so even with broadband it takes some time to download. The results are worth the wait.  Click here to have a choice of four versions, No. 1 being the best.

 

Dateline - 26 June 2006:  New theories on lunar swirls

Pale swirls on the surface of the Moon have been puzzling researchers for decades. Fresh clues are in the offing as NASA prepares a new round of lunar exploration.  Full story

 

Dateline - 13 June 2006:  Video of a meteoroid hitting the Moon

Last month, astronomers watched a meteoroid blast a hole in the lunar Sea of Clouds. Their video of the event is a must-see.  Full story

 

Dateline - 9 June 2006:  The Earth's second Moon is about to leave

A tiny asteroid corkscrewing around Earth for the past seven years is about to leave the neighbourhood. Asteroid 2003 YN107, only 20 metres across, has been in Earth orbit with a period of a year. Now it is leaving.  Full story

 

Dateline - 5 June 2006:  Jupiter's Great Red Spot and Red Junior approaching each other, may converge on July 4

The two biggest storms in the solar system are about to go bump in the night, in plain view of backyard telescopes.  Full story

 

Dateline - 1 June 2006:  Star Wars battle droids on the ISS ?

A little droid is roaming the corridors of the International Space Station, and more are on the way.  Full story

 

Dateline - 30 May 2006:  Spectacular alignment of planets in mid-June

Something remarkable is about to happen in the evening sky. Three planets and a star cluster are converging for a close encounter you won't want to miss.  Full story

 

Dateline - 26 May 2006:  Earth's ozone layer recovering ?

Earth's ozone layer appears to be on the road to recovery, but the reasons why aren't fully understood.  Full story

 

Dateline - 22 May 2006:  Advice to Lunar Prospectors

NASA scientist David Beaty lists some principles to be followed when deciding which areas of the Moon should be considered for mining operations.  Full story

 

Dateline - 12 May 2006:  Chains of craters caused by comet impacts

What happens when a fragmented comet hits the surface of a planet? It makes a chain of craters. Researchers are looking for evidence of these crater chains here on Earth - and finding them in some unexpected places.  Full story

 

Dateline - 11 May 2006:  Encounter this week with comet fragments

More than 60 fragments of dying comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 are racing toward Earth. There's no danger of a collision. At closest approach on May 12 - 16, the mini-comets will be 10 million kilometres away.

That is close enough, however, for a marvellous view through backyard telescopes. Many of the fragments are themselves crumbling, producing clouds of gas and dust mixed with boulder-sized debris. As some fragments fade, others brighten, surprising onlookers. It's an amazing display. Click here for sky maps, updates and images from around the world.

 

Dateline - 10 January 2006:  NASA's Stardust spacecraft returns to Earth this week

After nearly eight years in space, NASA’s Stardust spacecraft is plunging toward Earth to return captured comet material and interstellar dust. Stardust is set to land on the Utah desert at about 5:12 a.m. EST (1012 GMT) on Jan. 15, 2006. Tucked within the spacecraft’s sample container are pieces of Comet Wild 2 (pronounced “Vilt 2”) and interstellar dust – trapped in a material dubbed aerogel – for scientists to study back on Earth.  Latest update on this mission

 

Dateline - 9 January 2006:  Unusual levels of lightning discharges in eye walls of recent major hurricanes

Three of the most powerful hurricanes of 2005 were filled with mysterious lightning.  Full story

 

Dateline - 3 January 2006:  Astronauts report unusual lunar shadows

Astronauts have noticed something strange about shadows on the moon.  Full story

 

Dateline - 7 December 2005:  NASA reports possible dust storms on the Moon

The evidence comes from an old Apollo experiment called LEAM, short for Lunar Ejecta and Meteorites. Apollo 17 astronauts installed LEAM on the moon in 1972 to look for dust kicked up by small meteoroids hitting the moon's surface. Now it has detected dust particles being activated during each lunar sunrise.  Full story

 

Dateline - 28 November 2005:  Shadows cast by Venus 

The planet Venus is growing so bright, it's actually casting shadows. You may be able to see them this week.  Full story

 

Dateline - 12 November 2005:  Japanese probe photographs asteroid Itokawa 

Japan's Hayabusa probe has successfully photographed asteroid Itokawa in great detail.  Full story and photographs

 

Dateline - 4 November 2005:  Japanese probe prepares to collect samples from asteroid Itokawa 

Japan hopes to obtain samples from the asteroid's surface later this month, the country's space agency said last Friday. The Hayabusa probe, launched in May 2003, is intended to make a brief landing to retrieve surface samples from the asteroid, after hovering around it for three months. The asteroid, about 180 million miles away, is only 2,300 feet long and 1,000 feet wide. The samples are to be returned to Earth for examination, the probe landing in outback Australia in June 2007.  More 

 

Dateline - 3 November 2005:  Bright fireballs associated with the Taurids meteor showers 

Earth is currently orbiting through a swarm of space debris that may be producing an unusual number of night-time fireballs. The debris is associated with Comet Encke and is producing a number of bright, flaring meteors or bolides.  Full story

 

Dateline - 1 November 2005:  How many moons has Pluto? 

Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered that Pluto may have not one, but three moons.  Full story

 

Dateline - 28 October 2005:  Exploring Mars is risky 

A NASA report lays out the risks of exploring Mars and considers how to mitigate them.  Full story

 

Dateline - 27 October 2005:  Halloween and Mars

Halloween (31 October) is the Night of Mars. But that's not the only reason it's a big night for astronomers.  Full story

 

Dateline - 26 October 2005:  What parts of an astronaut's body are most vulnerable to solar radiation?

Researchers are making a list: Which parts of an astronaut are most sensitive to solar flares? The answer might surprise you.  Full story

 

Dateline - 21 October 2005:  How is a rocket like a guitar?

Guitars and rockets have a lot in common, but what's good for a musician might spell trouble for an astronaut.  Full story

 

Dateline - 14 October 2005:  Liquid fuelled rockets still have a future in space exploration

Engineers have found a way to boost the performance of liquid fuelled rockets. The secret is in the plumbing.  Full story

 

Dateline - 12 October 2005:  Two Chinese taikonauts (astronauts) enter Earth orbit

China launched its second manned spacecraft Shenzhou-6 at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China's Gansu Province at 9:00 am local time last Wednesday, October 12. This is their first two-person mission into Earth orbit, and it is expected to last for up to five days.   CNN report    Space.com report

 

Dateline - 7 October 2005:  Solar flares can be good for astronauts

Strange, but true.  Full story

 

Dateline - 4 October 2005:  Leonardo da Vinci solves a problem

Later this week, at sunset, you can step outside and witness a display of light and shadow on the Moon that puzzled sky watchers for thousands of years - until Leonardo Da Vinci figured it out.  Full story

 

Dateline - 24 September 2005:  NASA evacuates Johnson Space Centre at Houston under hurricane threat

NASA evacuated its Johnson Space Centre in Houston and turned over control of the International Space Station to its Russian partners as Hurricane Rita barrelled towards the area across the Gulf of Mexico with ferocious winds.  Full story

 

Dateline - 22 September 2005:  Planet Mars to double in brightness as Earth approaches

The planet Mars, already very bright in the midnight sky, is about to get much brighter.  Full story

 

Dateline - 15 September 2005:  Abnormal sunspot activity causes aurorae in the northern hemisphere

With a burst of activity on the sun this week, solar minimum is looking strangely like Solar Max.  Full story

 

Dateline - 26 August 2005:  Venus, Jupiter and the Moon are gathering for a beautiful sunset sky show

A spectacular conjunction of the two brightest planets and first magnitude star Spica will occur next week. The week after, they will be joined by the Moon. Look in the western sky at dusk.  Full story

 

Dateline - 22 August 2005:  Spirit  roving vehicle sees whirl-winds on Mars

The Mars roving vehicle Spirit currently exploring the surface of Mars has taken a movie showing numerous whirl-winds or 'dust devils' moving across the plains. Click here to watch the movie. Click here to visit the home page of the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity.

 

Dateline - 12 August 2005:  Perseid Meteor Shower is underway

The Perseid meteor shower is underway. The shower's broad peak extends from August 12 to 14, with August 13 being best. If you get away from bright city lights and watch the sky between local midnight and dawn on Saturday morning, August 13, you can expect to see dozens to hundreds of meteors.

The planet Mars is out during the Perseid meteor shower, too. It's that bright red 'star' high in the eastern sky before dawn. Many Perseid meteors will appear to fly past Mars on Friday morning - a pretty sight.

And speaking of Mars, beware the Mars Hoax. A rumour about the red planet continues to spread via email. The message claims that Mars will come so close to Earth on August 27 that it will look as big as the Full Moon. In fact, Mars is approaching Earth for a close encounter in November - not August. November's close approach will indeed be beautiful, but Mars will never rival the Moon. In a telescope, it will appear about half as large as Jupiter. Click
here to get the full story, plus sky maps, pictures of Perseids, and solar activity updates.
 

 

Dateline - 5 August 2005:  ISS and Shuttle visible from Nambour

At 6.09 pm tonight, the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle Discovery will be visible from Nambour. They will be flying in tandem and will be very low in the south-west, heading towards the southern horizon. They will be visible for less than two minutes, reaching a maximum elevation above the horizon of ten degrees. Anyone trying to observe these objects will need a low, flat, unobscured south-south-western horizon.

 

Dateline - 29 July 2005:  New planet beyond Pluto discovered

Astronomers have found a new world bigger than Pluto in the outer reaches of the solar system. Some are calling it 'the 10th planet'.   Full story   It is very faint, being a dim speck of magnitude 19. Amateur astronomers can photograph this new world, temporarily named 2003 UB313, through large backyard telescopes. Some of their photos, including one from Dennis Simmons of Brisbane, are displayed here.

 

Dateline - 27 July 2005:  Nanotechnology in space exploration

The next big thing is small: Nanotechnology could lead to radical improvements in space exploration.  Full story

 

Dateline - 11 July 2005:  NASA plans new lunar survey

In 2008, NASA plans to send a satellite to orbit the Moon - the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO). As it surveys the lunar surface, LRO will get clear pictures of Apollo relics for the first time since the 1970s. Full story

 

Dateline - 6 July 2005:  NASA's 'Deep Impact' mission a success

At 4.00 pm on the afternoon of July 4, the NASA spacecraft 'Deep Impact' released a 372 kilogram impactor into the path of Comet 9P/Tempel 1. The spacecraft watched from a safe distance of 500 kilometres as the impactor collided with the comet's nucleus at a speed of about 37 000 kilometres per hour. The kinetic energy released by the collision was the equivalent of detonating five tonnes of TNT. It is expected that the 14 kilometre long cometary nucleus suffered an impact crater about 200 metres wide and 50 metres deep. It is possible that the cloud of debris produced around the comet, will increase its brightness 15 to 40 times, and raise its brightness from magnitude 10 to magnitude 6 (the threshold of naked-eye visibility). The comet is in the constellation Virgo, near the bright background star Spica, at the present time. Click here for a full report on the impact with pictures.

 

Dateline - 24 June 2005:  A force field to protect astronauts from radiation

Scientists are reviving an old but wild idea to protect astronauts from space radiation.  Full story

 

Dateline - 22 June 2005:  Spectacular planetary alignment this weekend

Mercury, Venus and Saturn are converging for a close approach within the next seven days.  Full story

 

Dateline - 27 May 2005:  Earth is approaching Mars

Earth and Mars will have a breathtaking close encounter in October 2005. Can't wait? Don't need to. You can see the red planet now (although not as large).  Full story

 

Dateline - 24 May 2005:  Laser to orbit the Moon

NASA plans to put a laser in orbit around the Moon to map its surface for future explorers.  Full story

 

Dateline - 13 May 2005:  Close asteroid approach in 2029

Asteroid 2004 MN4 will come impressively close to Earth on April 13, 2029, so close that sky watchers can see the space rock without a telescope, but it will not hit.  Full story

 

Dateline - 29 April 2005:  Large sunspot groups appearing

More than four years after solar maximum, the Sun continues to produce big sunspots. There's one transitting the solar disc now. It's about five times wider than our entire planet Earth--in other words, big enough to see with the unaided eye. But please do not stare at the blinding sun. Click here for safe solar observing tips, plus a movie of the growing 'spot and photos taken by amateur astronomers around the world

 

Dateline - 29 April 2005:  Finding water on the Moon

Settling alien worlds is thirsty work. Before sending people back to the Moon, NASA plans to send a robotic spacecraft first to hunt for water.  Full story

 

Dateline - 8 April 2005:  Vale Pope John Paul II - restorer of Galileo's reputation

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was an Italian mathematician, astronomer and physicist. He first heard about Hans Lippershey's invention of the telescope in 1608, and was the first to aim one at the sky. He discovered the mountains, valleys and craters on the Moon, Sunspots, Saturn’s rings, and the true nature of the Milky Way.

Using a telescope he made himself, Galileo discovered the four largest of Jupiter’s moons. The existence of these moons demonstrated beyond doubt that not all celestial bodies revolve around the Earth, contradicting the Earth-centred Ptolemæic view of the cosmos which was favoured by the Roman Catholic Church. Galileo published his findings in a book, Siderius Nuncius (The Starry Messenger), in which he showed that his discoveries with his telescope, together with that of the phases of Venus, confirmed the Copernican model, which stated that the planets, including the Earth, revolved around the Sun. This initiated a scientific revolution of great magnitude, much to the disquiet of the Church.

He published his ideas in a famous book, A Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems – Ptolemæic and Copernican, of 1632, which ridiculed the Ptolemæic system unmercifully. In particular, the character supporting the Ptolemæic theory, an ignoramus named Simplicio, repeated arguments recently used by Pope Urban VIII in railing against the Copernican world view. Consequently, in 1633 Galileo was judged by the Inquisition as having violated a Church edict against espousing the Copernican system He was placed under house arrest for the rest of his life. At least he was not burned at the stake as a heretic as Giordano Bruno was in 1600. Pope John Paul II apologised to and reinstated Galileo on October 31, 1992.  Click here for the Roman Catholic point of view regarding Galileo.

 

Dateline - 30 March 2005:  Fountains on the Moon?

When astronauts return to the Moon in the years ahead, they might encounter electrified fountains, pale 'auroras' of dust and other strange things.  Full story.

 

Dateline - 28 March 2005:  NASA probe will test Einstein's Theory of Relativity

By measuring the shape of spacetime with exquisite precision, NASA's Gravity Probe B spacecraft aims to confirm Einstein's theory of relativity ... or provide the first evidence against it.  Full story.

 

Dateline - 23 March 2005:  100 years ago, Albert Einstein turned the world of physics upside-down

Full story.

 

Dateline - 18 March 2005:  Why colonise the Moon before going to Mars?

NASA scientists give their reasons.  Full story.

 

Dateline - 25 February 2005:  Rainbows on Titan ?

When the European Space Agency's Huygens probe visited Saturn's moon Titan last month, the probe parachuted through humid clouds. It photographed river channels and beaches and things that look like islands. Finally, descending through swirling fog, Huygens landed in mud. Saturn's moon Titan is wet, according to the ESA's Huygens probe, but Titan's 'water' is not like Earth's.  Full story.

 

Dateline - 17 February 2005:  Saturn has blue skies

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has discovered another world with blue skies: Saturn.  Full story

 

Dateline - 16 January 2005:  Huygens probe lands safely on Titan

The European Space Agency's Huygens probe parachuted to a safe landing on Saturn's largest moon, Titan, on January 14. Already it has transmitted the first sounds and pictures from the surface back to Earth. Full story.

 

Dateline - 10 January 2005:  Indonesian earthquake affects Earth's shape and rotation

The megathrust earthquake that occurred off the Indonesian island of Sumatra on December 26, 2004 has quickened the rotation of the Earth and slightly altered its shape, according to NASA scientists. The length of a day has been shortened by 2.68 microseconds (a microsecond is a millionth of a second), and the North Pole shifted by 25 millimetres. The increase in rotational speed has been caused by the quake's effect in slightly reducing the planet's equatorial bulge. Full story of the effects on a planetary scale here

The earthquake, which registered 9 on the Richter scale, generated a disastrous tsunami or sea wave which caused widespread destruction and loss of life in many countries bordering the Indian Ocean. 
Earthquake Satellite Imagery
-- from NASA          The Geography of the Earthquake -- from Earth Observatory (NASA)
More information about the earthquake
-- from the United States Geological Survey

 

Dateline - 6 January 2005:  Comet Machholz close to the Pleiades star cluster

On the nights of Friday, January 7 and Saturday, January 8, Comet 2004 Q2 (Machholz) will be within three degrees of the Pleiades star cluster, M45. This naked-eye comet will appear as a faint, greenish cloud just to the left of the famous cluster. This week it makes its closest approach to our planet, and will be 52 million km (0.35 AU) away. Its coma is very large, nearly 500 000 kilometres across. The two tails are widely separated, about 140 degrees apart. Binoculars or a small telescope will provide an excellent view.  Full story.  

 

Dateline - 30 December 2004:  Huygens probe prepares to land on Saturn's moon Titan

In about two weeks, on January 14, the European Space Agency's Huygens probe will parachute to the surface of Saturn's huge moon Titan. Huygens will sample Titan's air, examine the moon's surface, and listen for alien sounds.  Full story.

 

Dateline - 22 December 2004:  Full Moon for Christmas

A special full moon, the smallest of 2004, will brighten the nights around Christmas.  Full story.

 

Dateline - 17 December 2004:  Interstellar helium-rich wind hits the Earth

Since November 29 the Sun has been in the non-zodiacal constellation of Ophiuchus, the so-called '13th house of the zodiac'. At this time of year, an interstellar wind hits our planet. It's a helium-rich breeze from the stars, flowing into the solar system from the direction of Ophiuchus. The sun's gravity focuses the material into a cone and Earth passes through it during the first weeks of December. We're inside the cone now, but will leave it soon. None of the particles in this wind reaches the surface of our planet, so there is no danger to us. Nonetheless, astronomers are very interested in studying this wind and its effects.   Full story.

 

Dateline - 12 December 2004:  Comet Machholz - an evening comet visible to the unaided eye

Comet 2004 Q2 (Machholz) is passing through the constellation Eridanus. It can be seen faintly with the unaided eye from dark-sky sites about a handspan to the south (right) of Orion. There is a 20 arcminute coma. Binoculars or a small telescope should show it well, and also the dust and ion tails, which on December 1 were each about a degree long. The comet will arc over Orion as December progresses, heading for Taurus. Click here for more data, and here for a finder chart.

Dateline - 6 December 2004:  Huygens spacecraft to land on Titan

Take a look at Saturn using a telescope; you won't be disappointed. Even a small 'scope shows Saturn's breathtaking rings. You might also notice a pinprick of light near Saturn: that's Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Titan is an exquisitely weird place. It has orange clouds, an icy continent the size of Australia and, possibly, seas filled with something like gasoline. 

On 15 October 1997, NASA launched its Cassini spacecraft to Titan, with the European Space Agency's Huygens probe on board. Now they have arrived at Saturn, and the Huygens probe will be deployed from the spacecraft later this month. The probe will land on Titan on 14 January 2005. The Cassini-Huygens mission is a co-operative project of NASA, ESA and ASI, the Italian space agency. Here are some interesting links:  
     
NASA-JPL Cassini-Huygens Page      
     
ESA Cassini-Huygens Index Page      
     
ESA Science and Technology: Cassini-Huygens

 

Dateline - 6 December 2004:  Gemini meteor shower peaks on December 14

The best meteor shower of 2004, the Geminids, will be observable on December 14 and 15. The shower is associated with bthe asteroid 3200 Phaethon, and is expected to peaks on Dec. 14th. Click here for the full story.

The maximum phase of meteor showers usually occurs between 3 am and sunrise. The reason most meteors are observed in the pre-dawn hours is because at that time we are on the front of the Earth as it rushes through space at 107 000 km per hour (30 km per second). We are meeting the meteors head-on, and the speed at which they enter our atmosphere is the sum of their own speed plus ours. In the evenings, we are on the rear side of the Earth, and many meteors we see at that time are actually having to catch us up. This means that the speed at which they enter our atmosphere is less than in the morning hours, and they burn up less brilliantly.

Although most meteors are found in swarms associated with debris from comets, there are numerous 'loners', meteors travelling on solitary paths through space. When these enter our atmosphere, unannounced and at any time, they are known as 'sporadics'. 

On an average clear and dark evening, an observer can expect to see about ten meteors per hour. They burn up to ash in their passage through our atmosphere. The ash slowly settles to the ground as meteoric dust. The Earth gains about 80 tonnes of such dust every day, so a percentage of the soil we walk on is actually interplanetary in origin. If a meteor survives its passage through the air and reaches the ground, it is called a 'meteorite'.

 

Dateline - 29 November 2004:  Occultation of Jupiter visible from North America

On December 7, shortly before sunrise, observers in North America will be able to observe an occultation of the planet Jupiter by the Moon. This event will not be visible from Australia. More details here.

 

Dateline - 4 October 2004SpaceShipOne's second flight a success

On October 4, SpaceShipOne reached an altitude of 377,591 feet (71.5 miles or 115 kilometres), eight miles higher than what was needed to win the US$10 million Ansari X PRIZE. The pilot, Brian Binnie, had a smoother ride than did Mike Melvill last week. X Ansari officials said it set an altitude record exceeding the military rocket plane X-15's top altitude of 354,200 feet (67 miles or 108 kilometres) set on August 22, 1963. Click here for latest news from the Tier One Private Manned Space Program home page. Click here for CNN's coverage of this second successful flight.

Virgin magnate Sir Richard Branson has signed a technology licensing deal with Tier One, saying he would send "thousands" of fee-paying astronauts into orbit in the next five years. He said that the new firm - Virgin Galactic - would launch its maiden flight in three years, and that he would join the very first trip into space. "Within five years, Virgin Galactic will have created over 3 000 new astronauts from many countries," Sir Richard said, speaking alongside US aviation pioneer Burt Rutan, who designed and built SpaceShipOne. Click here for a full report from ABC News Online.

 

Dateline - 1 October 2004:  Privately-owned space vehicle reaches the threshold of space

On September 30 the privately-owned SpaceShipOne (SS1) rocketed above the 100 km altitude point and successfully completed the first of two X PRIZE flights. Burt Rutan's Mojave Aerospace Ventures Team successfully reached an altitude of 337 500 feet (63.92 miles or 102.87 kilometres) with pilot Mike Melvill onboard plus ballast (approx. 180 kg). The flight was marked by a period of 29 rolls after which the pilot was able to steady the vehicle. This flight was deemed by the judges as a successful first flight for the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE. The X PRIZE foundation has received official notice from Burt Rutan that SpaceShipOne's second flight (X2) will take place on Monday morning, October 4th from California's Mojave Airport, north of Los Angeles. Expected flight timeline:
* Takeoff at 7am Pacific Time
* Ignition at 8am PT
* Landing at 8:30am PT
* Press Conference to announce official Altitude at 10:30am PT

The entire flight and press conference can be viewed LIVE
here on a global webcast. C
lick here for more details from the Tier One Private Manned Space Program home page. Click here for CNN's coverage of this first flight. Click here for details of earlier test flights. Click here for a high resolution close-up of the solid-fuel rocket plane SpaceShipOne slung underneath its equally innovative mother ship, White Knight, while in flight. 

 

Dateline - 16 August 2004:  Soldering in space can lead to unexpected surprises!

Performing routine maintenance tasks in space can be full of surprises, as astronaut Mike Fincke found out recently when he did some soldering on board the International Space Station. When the resin-cored solder melted, the solder formed a molten blob and the liquid resin formed a droplet attached to it. As the temperature increased, the droplet began to spin, round and round, faster and faster, like a miniature carnival ride. Click here to read the story and see the video.

 

Dateline - 21 July 2004:  Apollo 11 science experiment left on the Moon is still being used

35 years ago, a 600 mm wide panel studded with 100 mirrors pointing at Earth - the "lunar laser ranging retroreflector array" - was placed on the Moon. Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong put it there on July 21, 1969, about an hour before the end of their final moonwalk. It is the only Apollo science experiment still working today. Astronomers on Earth bounce laser beams off it to measure the exact Moon's distance at a given moment, with an accuracy of a few centimetres over a distance of nearly 400 000 kilometres. Click here for more.

 

Dateline - 15 July 2004:  Shock wave to hit Voyager 1 spacecraft

At the far extremes of the Solar system, 14.5 billion kilometres from Earth, the Voyager 1 spacecraft launched in the late 1970s is about to be hit by a shock wave from the Sun. The wave is a coronal mass ejection or CME, and was generated by powerful solar storms that produced great flares in October and November last year. When the CME encountered the Earth, the Northern Hemisphere experienced aurorae as far south as the Tropic of Cancer, and the Earth acquired a new radiation belt that lasted for some weeks. Now, eight months later, the CME is about to reach Voyager 1. Click here for the full story.

 

Dateline - 9 July 2004:  Cassini spacecraft detects dust as it passes through a gap in Saturn's rings

The Cassini unmanned spacecraft reached Saturn on June 30, and passed through a gap in the famous ring system twice. The rings are made up of dust, gravel, rocks and chunks of ice. One of the scientific instruments onboard the spacecraft detected a flurry of dust particles striking the spacecraft. The vehicle was not damaged, but the sounds of them hitting was recorded, like hail on a tin roof. Click here for more details and to listen to the sounds.

 

Dateline - 7 July 2004:  A Blue Moon will occur on July 31 for some, on August 30 for Nambour (updated)

We have all heard the saying 'once in a blue moon', meaning a rare occurrence. The official definition of a 'blue Moon' is a second Full Moon occurring in the same calendar month. Full Moons occur every 29.5 days, and most months have 30 or 31 days. Generally, there is only one Full Moon per month, but if one occurs in the first or second day of the month, then it is possible for a second Full Moon to occur on the second last or last day of the same month. This happens about once every 2 or 3 years, and will happen for observers west of Burma this month. The first Full Moon in July occurred on July 2, and the second one appeared during the night of July 31. Technically, the moment of Full Moon occurred at Mapleton after midnight, at 4.06 am on August 1. This means that Mapleton did not get to see two Full Moons in July, so cannot claim a Blue Moon.

As we saw a Full Moon after midnight on August 1, we can claim our own Blue Moon on August 30, when the second Full Moon for August will appear. Click here for more information.  

 

Dateline - 4 July 2004:  Cassini spacecraft observes Saturn's largest moon, Titan 

Titan is such a large moon that it has its own atmosphere, in which clouds of methane have been detected. The Cassini spacecraft has peered through these clouds to see what lies beneath. Click here for the full story and photographs. 

 

Dateline - 25 June 2004:  Rich Perseid Meteor Shower this year 

From mid-July to mid-August the Earth will encounter the annual Perseid meteor shower. This year the display will be more spectacular than usual, as it will coincide with the Earth's passage through a filament of dust and rocks newly drifting across Earth's orbit. The filament, like all the rest of the dust in the Perseid cloud, comes from Comet Swift-Tuttle. The difference is, the filament is relatively young. It boiled off the comet in 1862. Other dust in the cloud is older (perhaps thousands of years old), more dispersed, and responsible for the month-long shower that peaks on August 12. The filament will eventually disperse, too, but for now it retains some of its original ribbon-shape. If predictions are correct, Earth will pass through the filament on Wednesday, August 12 at 7.00 am our time. This will produce a surge of mostly-faint meteors in the pre-dawn hours on that day. Observers may see up to 200 meteors per hour, but due to the tilt of the comet's orbit, the northern hemisphere will be favoured with the best display.

Click here for more details.

 

Dateline - 18 June 2004:  Possible meteor shower on the morning of June 23 

JUNE BOOTID METEORS: Earth is heading for a cloud of dust shed by Comet Pons-Winnecke in the 19th century. An encounter with the cloud could possibly produce a good meteor shower before sunrise on Wednesday, June 23rd - forecasters aren't sure. If a shower materializes, sky watchers in western North America and across the Pacific Ocean will have the best chance of seeing it.

 

Dateline - 14 June 2004:  Transit of Venus photo gallery from around the world 

Some of the photographs of last week's Transit of Venus are unlike any in the history of astronomy. There's the X-ray transit of Venus, recorded by an Earth-orbiting satellite; pictures of jet aircraft transiting Venus while Venus transited the Sun; pictures of Venus' atmosphere glowing like a fiery-red ring; pictures of Brood X cicadas themselves watching the transit! Click here to browse a gallery of such images from all six continents where the event was visible.

SUNSPOT WATCH: If you learned how to safely look at the Sun last week to view the transit of Venus, look again. Two big sunspot groups, each larger than Venus, have just emerged over the Sun's eastern limb. This could signal a period of increased solar activity in the days ahead.

 

Dateline - 28 May 2004:  Captain Cook and the transit of Venus 

The coming transit of Venus, on June 8, 2004, will be one of the best-publicized events in the history of astronomy. Yet the sight of Venus' disc crawling across the Sun might strike some as ... dull. Read this story and learn the real reason to watch. 

IMPORTANT WARNING:  Proper precautions should always be taken when observing the Sun. The only 100% safe way to view the transit is to project the Sun's image onto a sheet of white paper. Thick filters such as photographic film or welding glasses are extremely dangerous to use and should be avoided. Looking at the Sun at any time can result in permanent eye damage or blindness. Click here to find out how to view the Sun safely.

 

Dateline - 21 May 2004:  Comet C/2002 T7 (LINEAR) now showing in the western sky in early evenings (updated) 

Comet C/2002 T7 (LINEAR) is visible with binoculars in the evening sky after twilight ends. On June 6 it passed three degrees to the south of the star Alphard, and has dropped to fourth magnitude. Fading rapidly, the comet will head past the constellation Leo, and by July it will be about a handspan south of Jupiter, but sunk below naked-eye visibility. 

 For a finder chart, click  here. For details about the comet's position from day to day (an ephemeris), click  here. 

To find out more about current comets, including finder charts showing exact positions and magnitudes, click  here. To see pictures of these comets, click here.

 

Dateline - 3 May 2004:   UFO planet

The planet Venus, so bright it is often mistaken for an alien spaceship, reaches maximum brilliancy this week. Through a small telescope or a good pair of binoculars, Venus looks like a beautiful crescent as it turns its dark side towards us.  Full story

 

Dateline - 26 April 2004:   New comets visible

Newly-discovered Comet Bradfield (C/2004 F4) swung around the Sun on April 17th, well inside the orbit of Mercury. It managed to survive its close approach to the Sun and is now a pre-dawn object. Binoculars are required to see the ten degree long tail. Orbital elements and positions for the comet are available here. Bill Bradfield is Australia's most successful comet hunter.

Comets that get so close to the Sun can become very bright and, sometimes, they break apart. The Sun's glare will hide the encounter from observers on Earth, but not from the orbiting Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). Coronagraphs onboard SOHO are able to block the glare and reveal sungrazing comets. Comet Bradfield entered SOHO's field of view on April 16th.  

In the weeks ahead, sky watchers will be able to see two other comets as well. Use the following links to acquire details of the orbits and positions of