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


Updated:  27 March 2015



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Spot the International Space Station (from the Sunshine Coast, Queensland)

Wednesday, 4 March, 2015:    
The ISS will appear above the west-north-western horizon at 7:21 pm - maximum height will be 46 degrees above the northern horizon - and will disappear into the Earth's shadow south-south-east of the zenith, visible for 6 minutes.

Thursday, 26 March, 2015:     The ISS will appear above the south-western horizon at 7:17 pm - maximum height will be 64 degrees above the western horizon - and will disappear in the north-north-west, visible for 3 minutes.

Friday, 27 March, 2015:     The ISS will appear above the south-south-western horizon at 6:24 pm - maximum height will be 47 degrees above the southern horizon - and will disappear in the east-north-east, visible for 6 minutes.

Time: Fri Mar 27 6:24 PM, Visible: 6



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 2016.  GMT Home page     ANU's involvement


What do Australian astronomers need in the next ten years in order to stay at the forefront of astronomical research? Our scientists have a proud record of achievement, innovation and discovery in optical and radio astronomy, and in high-energy particle physics and cosmology. The late, great Mount Stromlo 74 inch telescope led the way, followed by the Parkes Radio Telescope which is still at the leading edge of its field of work. In the 1970s came Hanbury-Brown's Stellar Intensity Interferometer, Paul Wild's Radioheliograph, and the Sydney University Giant Air Shower Recorder (all near Narrabri). The last named had an area of 61 square kilometres. All of these instruments worked away, largely unknown and unheralded by the Australian public, although they were featured on the first $50 paper notes. In 1974 the 3.9 metre Anglo-Australian Telescope and the 1.2 metre Schmidt were commissioned on Siding Spring Mountain, and then in 1988 the Australia Telescope was built at Culgoora as a Bicentennial Project.

Where to next? Our astronomers have prepared a wish list for the next ten years called the 'Decadal Plan for 2006-2015'.  Read it here .


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.












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

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


Dateline -  17 March 2015 - Severe geomagnetic storm

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


Dateline -  7 March 2015 - Active Sunspot

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  1 March 2015 - Peculiar noctilucent clouds over Antarctica

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  12 February 2015 - Deep Space Climate Observatory launched

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  7 January 2015 - Unexpected geomagnetic storm

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  19 December 2014 -  Southern Hemisphere carbon emissions rising

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline - 4 December 2014 -  Japan launches asteroid mission

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


Dateline - 1 December 2014 -  Geminid meteor shower arrives early

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


Dateline - 24 November 2014 -  Volcanoes on the Moon

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline - 7 November 2014 -  Martian meteor shower

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


Dateline - 6 November 2014 -  A new theory about galaxies

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


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

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


Dateline - 30 October 2014 -  Size of the ozone hole

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


Dateline - 19 October 2014 -  X-Flare on Sun

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline - 17 October 2014 -  Large sunspot appears

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


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

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

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


Dateline - 10 October 2014 -  First light for MAVEN

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


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

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

Chart Copyright NASA, 2014


Dateline - 3 October 2014 -  Stratosphere affected by solar storm

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

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

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


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

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


Dateline - 11 September 2014 -  Jellyfish flames on the ISS

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline - 26 August 2014 -  Candidate comet landing sites identified

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


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

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


Dateline - 24 August 2014 -  Magnificent solar flare

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


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

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


Dateline - 12 August 2014 -  Comet heads for Mars

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


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

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


Dateline - 6 August 2014 -  Historic Comet rendezvous today

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


Dateline - 4 August 2014 -  Meteor activity intensifies

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


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

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



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

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline - 24 July 2014 -  Space probe approaches comet

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


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

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


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

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


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

Video     (Contributed by Tim)


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

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


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



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

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline - 2 July 2014 -  NASA launches new Carbon Observatory

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


Dateline - 25 June 2014 -  Sprites over the USA

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


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

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


Dateline - 18 June 2014 -  Lasers from space

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


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

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


Dateline - 18 June 2014 -  Watch a star explode

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


Dateline - 10 June 2014 -  The Solar Maximum has arrived

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline - 3 May 2014 -  Meteor Watch

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


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

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


Dateline - 22 April 2014 -  Current Meteor Shower

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


Dateline - 18 April 2014 -  An idea for detecting exoplanets

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


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

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


Dateline - 16 April 2014 - Unexpected teleconnections in noctilucent clouds

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


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

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


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

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

South-east Queensland times:

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

Click  here  for observing tips and more information.

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


Dateline - 3 April 2014 - The underground ocean of Enceladus

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


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

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


Dateline - 28 March 2014 - Mars approaches opposition

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  6 March 2014:   Asteroid disintegrates

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


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

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


Dateline -  26 February 2014:   Lots of new worlds found

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  7 February 2014:   Severe drought in California

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Dateline -  21 January 2014:   Global temperatures are rising

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


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

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


Dateline -  11 January 2014:   Venus at inferior conjunction

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


Dateline -  10 January 2014:   Starting fire with water

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


Dateline -  7 January 2014:   Powerful sunspot erupts

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




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