(including reports
© NASA and © Spaceweather.com
and information from the Royal Astronomical Society)


Updated:    22 September 2017



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International Space Station news and views  

Click   here  to see the current position of the International Space Station (ISS) and the view from the spacecraft. The lower part of the webpage shows the ground track across the globe.  Click on  SNAPSHOT  when you are in an area of interest. You can navigate using the arrows in the upper-left corner. Also, you can zoom in using the vertical bar with the + and - signs.      (Contributed by Tim)

See the International Space Station passing overhead tonight  (from the Sunshine Coast, Queensland):  

Friday, 15 September, 2017:     The ISS will appear 11º above the south-south-western horizon at 6:53 pm and will reach a maximum elevation of 56º.  It will disappear into the Earth's shadow when 56º above the south-eastern horizon.  In this flyover, the ISS will be visible for 3 minutes.



Interesting research news (latest news first):

The Australian National University has joined the Giant Magellan Telescope international consortium of research organisations. The GMT is likely to be one of the first of a small number of next-generation Extremely Large Telescopes that are expected to be built in the next 20 years. The telescope's conceptual design anticipates a moving mass of 1000 tonnes and a cylindrical observatory 65 metres high. It will be built by the participating organisations at a site in northern Chile. The primary mirror will have seven circular segments each 8.4 metres across, six of these surrounding the centrally located seventh. The total light-gathering power will be nearly seven times that of the Gemini telescopes, which are the largest ones to which Australian astronomers currently have access, and the images obtained should be ten times clearer than those taken with the Hubble Space Telescope. The GMT is expected to see first light in 2022.  GMT Home page     Australia's involvement


NASA's powerful infrared Spitzer Space Telescope has taken an image that rivals the Hubble Space Telescope's 'Pillars of Creation' photograph taken ten years ago of part of the Eagle Nebula. Dubbed the 'Mountains of Creation', it shows huge clouds of matter undergoing intense star formation in the region W5 in Cassiopeia. These clouds, which are ten times bigger than the Pillars, are illuminated in the infrared band, but appear as dark clouds in visible light images.  Full story


The Hubble Space Telescope has found a disc of blue stars orbiting around a supermassive black hole at the centre of the Andromeda Galaxy, M31. The disc is only one light year across, and contains 400 hot young stars orbiting the black hole at speeds up to 1000 kilometres per second. As the cores of galaxies typically contain old red Population I stars, this is quite an enigma.  Full story


The MAGIC Telescope is the largest and most advanced single instrument yet built to observe very-high-energy cosmic rays from the ground. Its parabolic mirror is made up of about a thousand 50 cm X 50 cm aluminium mirror panels, giving a total area equivalent to a single 15 metre diameter mirror. MAGIC is an acronym for 'Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov'.   Full story


The White House has forced NASA to cancel the fourth shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. It is now expected that the HST will be allowed to burn up during re-entry to the Earth's atmosphere sometime during this decade. The Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter had also been a victim of budgetary cuts and is to be postponed indefinitely.  Full story


The Swift Gamma-ray Observatory observed its first gamma-ray burst on January 17, two months after launch.  Full story


Earth's most extensive global topographic map has just been completed by NASA and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. The final section to be done included Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific islands. The resolution of the publicly available data is 90 metres at the Equator.  Full story


ESA's Smart-1 spacecraft reached its final operational orbit around the Moon in late February. The mission has been extended until August 2006.  Full story


Black holes use their intense gravitational fields to draw in nearby matter, which gives out tremendous amounts of radiation as it approaches the event horizon. The process has been found to be anything but smooth, however.  Full story


The European Southern Observatory now has the world's largest interferometer. It is the world's most advanced optical instrument, and consists of four Unit Telescopes with main mirrors of 8.2m diameter and four movable 1.8m diameter Auxiliary Telescopes. The telescopes can work together, to form a giant ‘interferometer’, the ESO Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI). It will allow astronomers to see details up to 25 times clearer than with the individual telescopes.  Full story


The Chandra X-ray Observatory has discovered two huge clouds of warm-hot intergalactic matter (WHIM) around our galaxy. This may be some of the missing 'dark matter' of the universe. The clouds have a temperature of about 1 million degrees K, and contain ions of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and neon.  Full story


Images from space of the December 26, 2004 tsunami are available  here,  here  and  here.


The Rosetta space vehicle launched last March by the European Space Agency (ESA) will have four planetary intercepts before it heads off to Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko, which it will reach in 2014.  Full story


The newly-discovered planetoid Sedna, 1700 km across, is the reddest object in the Solar System except for Mars. It is the furthest object in the Solar System except for comets, and takes 10 500 years to circle the Sun once. Should we call it a planet or is it too small?  More information about Sedna


The ESA solar spacecraft Ulysses has passed through two, and possibly three comet tails.  Full story


The Chandra X-ray Observatory has made the first clear detection of x-rays from Saturn, and has also revealed new information about the atmosphere of Saturn's largest moon, Titan.   Full story


NASA's Genesis spacecraft completed its collection of solar wind particles last April and is now on its way back to Earth. The samples were placed into a sealed container which will be released into our atmosphere on September 8, hopefully parachuting to Earth over Utah. Helicopter pilots are being trained to snag the return capsule in mid-air.   Full story


The Hubble Space Telescope has provided the deepest portrait of the visible universe ever taken, with a photograph whose exposure was one million seconds long (over 11.5 days!). It shows the faintest and most distant galaxies (in time as well as distance), some of the faintest possibly being the first galaxies to emerge after the 'big bang'. Hubble's Ultra Deep Field (HUDF) is in the southern constellation Fornax. In ground-based images, the region of the HUDF is largely empty, but the Hubble Telescope has revealed 10 000 galaxies there, in an area of sky only one hundredth the area of the Full Moon.  Full story



Latest Astronomical Headlines from the IAU (International Astronomical Union):      Click  here.











    SPACE                                   SPACE WEATHER                          UNIVERSE TODAY                                    NASA     


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

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

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

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

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


Dateline -  21 September 2017 -   Hubble's contentious Constant

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

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


Dateline -  14 September 2017 -   Solar wind produces geomagnetic storm

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  8 September 2017 -   Severe geomagnetic storm

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


Dateline -  7 September 2017 -   Geomagnetic storm warning

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


Dateline -  6 September 2017 -   X-Class solar flare

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


Dateline -  3 September 2017 -   Sunspot genesis

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


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

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


Dateline -  25 August 2017 -   Solar eclipse in the stratosphere

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


Dateline -  17 August 2017 -   Cassini's Grand Finale

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


Dateline -  11 August 2017 -   Perseid fireballs

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


Dateline -  28 July 2017 -   Noctilucent clouds from space

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


Dateline -  26 July 2017 -   Space lightning over Hawaii

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


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

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


Dateline -  21 July 2017 -   CME sweeps aside cosmic rays

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


Dateline -  16 July 2017 -   CME strike sparks geomagnetic storms

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

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

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


Dateline -  9 July 2017 -   Solar activity intensifies

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


Dateline -  4 July 2017 -   Noctilucent Clouds over Europe

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


Dateline -  15 May 2017 -   Geomagnetic storm watch

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


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

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


Dateline -  23 April 2017 -   Geomagnetic storms continue

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


Dateline -  22 April 2017 -   Earth Day aurora storm

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


Dateline -  22 April 2017 -   Meteor Shower tonight

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


Dateline -  19 April 2017 -   Old Sunspot returns, explodes

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


Dateline -  19 April 2017 -   Chance of magnetic storms

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


Dateline -  2 April 2017 -  The Sun wakes up

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


Dateline -  1 April 2017 -  Huge sunspot faces Earth

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


Dateline -  30 March 2017 -  Comet flyby

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


Dateline -  27 March 2017 -  Geomagnetic storm underway

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


Dateline -  21 March 2017 -  Solar wind arrives early

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

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

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


Dateline -  19 March 2017 -  Venus approaches inferior conjunction

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


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

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


Dateline -  1 March 2017 -  Solar wind, geomagnetic storm

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


Dateline -  27 February 2017 -  Solar wind, incoming

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


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

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


Dateline -  6 February 2017 -  Green comet approaches Earth

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


Dateline -  25 January 2017 -  Sunspot surprise

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


Dateline -  20 January 2017 -  Radiation Clouds at aviation altitudes

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


Dateline -  12 January 2017 -  Sunspots vanish

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


Dateline -  11 December 2016 -  Geminid meteor shower is underway

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


Dateline -  8 December 2016 -  Vale John Glenn

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  30 November 2016 -  Unexpected solar flares

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


Dateline -  28 November 2016 -  Noctilucent clouds over Antarctica

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  25 October 2016 -  Strong geomagnetic storm

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


Dateline -  25 October 2016 -  Chance of magnetic storms

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


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

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


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

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

dates and more information.

Dateline -  7 October 2016 -  Intercontinental SWx Balloon Network

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  8 September 2016 -  Asteroid double flyby

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


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

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


Dateline -  5 September 2016 -  Geomagnetic storm

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


Dateline -  31 August 2016 -  Annular Solar Eclipse in Africa

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


Dateline -  29 August 2016 -  Cosmic Rays in the atmosphere

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


Dateline -  27 August 2016 -  Spectacular conjunction

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


Dateline -  16 August 2016 -  Space lightning over China

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


Dateline -  7 August 2016 -  Perseid meteor shower outburst

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


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

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

Dateline -  31 July 2016 -  Geomagnetic storm warning

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

Dateline -  20 July 2016 -  Geomagnetic storm strikes Earth

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


Dateline -  17 July 2016 -  Big sunspots facing the Earth

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


Dateline - 17 July 2016 -  Noctilucent clouds over the USA

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


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

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


Dateline -  29 June 2016 -  Green flash on Mars

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

Dateline -  2 June 2016 -  Small asteroid explodes over Arizona

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


Dateline -  21 May 2016 -  7 pm Sky Show

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


Dateline -  20 May 2016 -  New ringed exoplanet discovered

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


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

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


Dateline -  5 May 2016 -  "Cosmic Eye" video

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


Dateline -  2 May 2016 -  Negative magnetic fields spark aurorae

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

Dateline -  18 April 2016 -  Big sunspot erupts

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


Dateline -  10 April 2016 -  Giant spot on the Sun

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  17 March 2016 -  Green comet approaches Earth

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


Dateline -  16 February 2016 -  Geomagnetic storm in progress

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


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

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


Dateline -  27 January 2016 -  Cosmic rays in the atmosphere

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


Dateline -  27 January 2016 -  A morning sky show

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

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


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

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


Dateline -  17 January 2016 - Comet Catalina approaches Earth 

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


Dateline -  3 January 2016 - Quadrantids meteor shower 

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


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

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


Dateline -  23 December 2015 -  New sunspot is growing rapidly

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


Dateline -  13 December 2015 -  Geminid Meteor Shower peaks

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


Dateline -  13 December 2015 -  Magnetic storm on a comet

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  5 November 2015 -  Taurid fireballs 

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

Dateline -  1 November 2015 -  Geomagnetic storm warning 

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


Dateline -  1 November 2015 -  Taurid fireballs

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  29 October 2015 -  Halloween fireballs 

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  25 October 2015 -  Doomed comets discovered 

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  16 October 2015 -  Huge eruption on the Sun

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


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

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


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

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

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


Dateline -  8 October 2015 -  Occultation of Venus tomorrow morning 

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


Dateline -  7 October 2015 -  URBAN AURORAE

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


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

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


Dateline -  1 October 2015 -  Daytime meteor shower

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


Dateline -  29 September 2015 -  High solar activity

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


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

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

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


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

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


Dateline -  16 September 2015 -  Double solar eclipse

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


Dateline -  14 September 2015 -  Double solar eclipse

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  14 August 2015 -  Inferior conjunction of Venus

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


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

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


Dateline -  5 August 2015 -  Perseid Meteor Shower underway

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


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

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


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


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

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


Dateline -  14 July 2015 -  Pluto from New Horizons


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

The above times are Australian Eastern Standard Time.

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

Dateline -  10 July 2015 -  Coffee in space

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


Dateline -  26 June 2015 -  Handprints on Hubble

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


Dateline -  22 June 2015 -  Geomagnetic storm warning

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


Dateline -  11 June 2015 -  Solar aurora watch

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


Dateline -  11 June 2015 -  Sunset planets

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


Dateline -  11 June 2015 -  Venus and Jupiter on show

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


Dateline -  4 June 2015 -  Arietids meteor swarm has started

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

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

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


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

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


Dateline -  19 May 2015 -  Geomagnetic storm in progress

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  11 May 2015 -  Aurorae on Mars

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


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

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


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

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


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

Click  here  for a full report.


Dateline -  30 April 2015 -  Sun enters a quiet phase

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


Dateline -  30 April 2015 -  Volcanic ash cloud heads east

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  23 April 2015 -  Volcanic lightning in Chile

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  20 April 2015 -  Lyrids meteor shower

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

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


Dateline -  9 April 2015 -  Yellow balls in space

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  17 March 2015 -  Severe geomagnetic storm

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


Dateline -  7 March 2015 -  Active Sunspot

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  1 March 2015 -  Peculiar noctilucent clouds over Antarctica

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  12 February 2015 -  Deep Space Climate Observatory launched

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  7 January 2015 -  Unexpected geomagnetic storm

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




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