and information from the Royal Astronomical Society)
Updated: 22 May 2013
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Interesting research news (latest news first):
Australian astronomers need in the next ten years in order to stay at the
forefront of astronomical research?
Where to next?
Our astronomers have prepared a wish list for the next ten years called the
'Decadal Plan for 2006-2015'.
ESA's Smart-1 spacecraft
The Chandra X-ray Observatory
The Rosetta space
newly-discovered planetoid Sedna
ESA solar spacecraft Ulysses
Chandra X-ray Observatory
Hubble Space Telescope
Astronomical Headlines from the IAU (International Astronomical Union):
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 .
ESA's Smart-1 spacecraftreached its final operational orbit around the Moon in late February. The mission has been extended until August 2006. Full story
The Chandra X-ray Observatoryhas 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
The Rosetta space vehiclelaunched 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 Ulysseshas passed through two, and possibly three comet tails. Full story
The Chandra X-ray Observatoryhas 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 spacecraftcompleted 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 Telescopehas 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):
SPACE WEATHER UNIVERSE TODAY
Dateline - 22 May 2013: Significant explosion on the Sun
SPACE SPACE WEATHER UNIVERSE TODAY NASA
Dateline - 22 May 2013: Significant explosion on the SunA solar radiation storm is in progress on May 23 (AEST) following an M5-class solar flare on the sun's western limb. The explosion not only accelerated a hailstorm of protons toward our planet, but also produced a magnificent CME (coronal mass ejection), which might deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field in the days ahead. Click here for more information and updates.
Dateline - 17 May 2013: Bright explosion on the Moon
NASA researchers who monitor the Moon for meteoroid impacts have detected an explosion ten times brighter than anything they've seen before. Full story Video
Dateline - 10 May 2013: Planetary alignment at end of May
Mercury, Venus and Jupiter are lining up for a beautiful sunset conjunction at the end of May. Full story Video
Dateline - 10 May 2013: "Ring of Fire" solar eclipse over Australia
As the sun rose over Australia this morning, May 10, the solar disc turned into a ring of fire - an annular solar eclipse. Click here for details and images.
Dateline - 6 May 2013: Glow-in-the-dark plants on the International Space Station
Can plants adapt to the novelty of climate change? Researchers seeking to answer this question have sent genetically engineered plants to the ISS for exposure to extreme conditions. To report their stress, the plants have learned to glow in the dark. Full story Video
Dateline - 3 May 2013: Powerful solar flare
For the second time in three days, an active region just over the sun's east limb has exploded, producing a strong solar flare and Coronal Mass Ejection (CME). The blast on May 3 registered M5 - not quite an X-flare, but still strong considering that the edge of the sun partially eclipsed the explosion as seen from Earth. Solar rotation is turning the active region toward Earth, and it should emerge later this weekend. Click here for updates.
Dateline - 29 April 2013: Hurricane on Saturn
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has spotted a gigantic hurricane swirling inside a mysterious, six-sided weather pattern known as 'the hexagon' on Saturn. Full story
Dateline - 29 April 2013: Meteors collide with Saturn's rings
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has provided the first direct evidence of small meteoroids crashing into Saturn's rings. Full story
Dateline - 25 April 2013: Saturn at opposition on April 28
Dateline - 24 April 2013: Hubble Space Telescope photographs Comet ISON
Dateline - 19 April 2013: Meteors from Comet ISON may strike the Earth
Dateline - 18 April 2013: Three new planets found in 'Goldilocks Zones'
NASA's Kepler mission has discovered two new planetary systems that include three super-Earth-size planets in the 'habitable zone', the range of distance from a star where the surface temperature of an orbiting planet might be suitable for liquid water. Full story
Dateline - 15 April 2013: New signs of Dark Matter found by ISS
Dateline - 11 April 2013: Incoming solar storm
A strong M6-class solar flare on April 11 has hurled a CME (coronal mass ejection) toward Earth. Geomagnetic storms and high-latitude auroras are possible when the fast-moving cloud reaches our planet on April 13. Click here for updates.
Dateline - 29 March 2013: A new watch on our ozone layer
Life as we know it doesn't thrive on planets without ozone layers, which is why the recovery of Earth's ozone layer is so important. A new instrument slated for launch to the International Space Station (ISS) will monitor our planet's protective ozone cocoon with greater depth and precision than ever before. Full story Video
Dateline - 27 March 2013: A comet is heading for Mars
A comet is heading for Mars, and there is a chance that it might hit the Red Planet in October 2014. An impact wouldn't necessarily mean the end of NASA's Mars program, but it would transform the program along with Mars itself. Full story Video
Dateline - 21 March 2013: The age of the universe now put at 13.8 billion years
The European Space Agency's Planck spacecraft has released the most detailed map ever made of the oldest light in the universe, revealing new information about its age, contents and origins. Full story
Dateline - 15 March 2013: Views of Comet Pan-STARRS
Comet Pan-STARRS has survived its encounter with the Sun and is now emerging from twilight in the sunset skies of the northern hemisphere. It is a very difficult object from Australia, being swamped by the Sun's glare. A NASA spacecraft has beamed back spectacular pictures of a 'wild and ragged' tail behind the comet's active nucleus. Full story Video
Dateline - 12 March 2013: Life on Mars ?
An analysis of a rock sample recently collected by NASA's rover Curiosity shows ancient Mars could have supported living microbes. Full story
Dateline - 9 March 2013: Bright comet is close to the Sun
This weekend, bright Comet Pan-STARRS is making a close approach to the sun inside the orbit of Mercury, where fierce solar heat is helping the comet reach naked-eye visibility. Observers in the northern hemisphere are making their first sightings now as the comet emerges from solar glare low in the western sky after sunset. Soon, the comet could be widely visible to casual sky watchers - no telescope required. Click here for images, sky maps and observing tips.
Dateline - 8 March 2013: New solar wind discovery
Using data from an aging NASA spacecraft, researchers have found signs of an energy source in the solar wind that has caught the attention of fusion researchers. Full story
Dateline - 3 March 2013: Naked-eye comet
Comet Pan-STARRS (C/2011 L4) is now inside the orbit of Mercury and it is brightening as it approaches the Sun. Observers in the southern hemisphere say the comet can be seen with the naked eye even through city lights. Currently, it is about as bright as the stars of Orion's Belt (magnitude +2 to +3). The comet could become even brighter when it moves into northern hemisphere skies in the second week of March. Click here for current images and updates.
Dateline - 28 February 2013: A third radiation belt discovered around the Earth
NASA's twin Van Allen Probes, launched just last August, have revealed a previously unknown third radiation belt around the Earth. Full story
Dateline - 26 February 2013: What exploded over Russia ?
Nearly two weeks after an asteroid exploded over Russia's Ural mountains, scientists are making progress understanding the origin and make-up of the unexpected space rock. Here are their latest findings with video .
Dateline - 20 February 2013: Kepler discovers a tiny planet system
NASA's Kepler mission scientists have discovered a new planetary system that is home to the smallest planet yet found around a star similar to our Sun. Full story
Dateline - 15 February 2013: Russian meteor explosion
On February 15, a meteor exploded in the daytime skies of Chelyabinsk, Russian. Shock waves from the blast shattered windows in many buildings and sent onlookers to the hospital with wounds from flying glass. The meteoroid entered the atmosphere just as asteroid 2012 DA14 was approaching Earth for a record-setting close approach later in the day. However, NASA says there is no connection between the two - the Russian meteor and 2012 DA14 have different trajectories. A cosmic coincidence? Click here for more information and updates.
Dateline - 15 February 2013: Asteroid flyby tomorrow morning
The small near-Earth asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass very close to the Earth on February 15, 2013, so close that it will pass inside the ring of geosynchronous weather and communications satellites. NASA's NEO Program Office can accurately predict the asteroid's path with the observations obtained, and it is therefore known that there is no chance that the asteroid might be on a collision course with the Earth. Nevertheless, the flyby will provide a unique opportunity for researchers to study a near-Earth object up close.
Asteroid 2012 DA14 will be closest to Earth on February 16, 2013 at about 5:24 am Queensland time, when it will be at a distance of about 27 700 kilometres (17 200 miles) above the Earth's surface. This is so close that the asteroid will actually pass inside the ring of geosynchronous satellites, which is located about 35 800 kilometres (22 200 miles) above the equator, but still well above the vast majority of satellites, including the International Space Station. At its closest, the asteroid will be only about one-thirteenth of the distance to the Moon. The asteroid will fly by our planet quite rapidly, at a speed of about 7.8 kilometres/second (17 400 miles per hour) in a south-to-north direction with respect to the Earth.
Even though 2012 DA14 is coming remarkably close, it will still only appear as a point of light in the biggest of optical telescopes because of its small size. Based on its brightness, astronomers estimate that it is only about 45 metres across. It will brighten only to magnitude 7.5, too faint to be seen with the naked eye but easily visible in a good set of binoculars or a small telescope. The best viewing location for the closest approach will be Indonesia, from which the asteroid will be seen to move at a rate of almost one degree per minute against the star background. Eastern Europe, Asia and Australia are also well situated to see the asteroid around its closest approach. But by the time the Earth rotates enough for observers in the continental United States to have a chance to see the asteroid, it will have receded and faded to about 11th magnitude. Radar astronomers plan to take images of the asteroid about 8 hours after closest approach using the Goldstone antenna.
2012 DA14 has not been in our catalogues for very long - it was discovered in February 2012 by astronomers at the La Sagra Sky Survey program in southern Spain and reported to the Minor Planet Centre. The asteroid had just made a fairly distant passage by the Earth, about 7 times farther than the distance to the Moon when it was first detected by the Spanish group. Since 2012 DA14's orbital period around the Sun has been about 368 days, which is very similar to the Earth's, the asteroid has made a series of annual close approaches, this year's being the closest. But this encounter will shorten 2012 DA14's orbital period to about 317 days, changing its orbital class from Apollo to Aten, and its future close approaches will follow a different pattern. The close approach this year is the closest the asteroid will come for at least 3o years.
This passage of 2012 DA14 by the Earth is a record close approach for a known object of this size. A few other known asteroids have flown by the Earth even closer, but those asteroids were smaller. On average, we expect an object of this size to get this close to the Earth about once every 40 years. An actual Earth collision by an object of this size would be expected much less frequently, about once every 1200 years on average. Full story Video
Dateline - 15 February 2013: Australian Astronomical Observatory resumes normal service
On the night of Thursday, February 14, the 4-metre Anglo-Australian Telescope returned to regular operations after testing, following the dangerous bushfire that swept through the Observatory grounds on the late afternoon of January 13 last. Courageous action by thirty members of the Rural Fire Brigade is credited with saving all the telescopes at Siding Spring Observatory, although some outbuildings, the accommodation building and the Visitors' Centre were lost to the flames. Media release
Dateline - 13 February 2013: Asteroid flyby this Friday
Starting at about 4 am on Saturday, February 16, NASA TV will provide commentary and images of near-Earth asteroid 2012 DA14 as it flies past Earth closer than many artificial satellites. Full story Video
Dateline - 9 February 2013: Latest news from Mars
In a milestone accomplishment, NASA's Curiosity rover has drilled into a rock on Mars and gathered material from its interior. This is the first time any robot has drilled into a rock to collect a sample on Mars. Full story
Dateline - 6 February 2013: A possible naked-eye comet in March
A comet falling in from the distant reaches of the solar system could become a naked-eye object in early March. This is Comet Pan-STARRS's first visit to the inner solar system, so surprises are possible as its virgin ices are exposed to intense solar heating for the first time. Important dates: Comet's closest approach to Earth (160 million kilometres) is on March 5; comet's closest approach to Sun (just inside the orbit of Mercury) is on March 10; best times for viewing are on March 13 and 14. Look low in the western sky soon after Sunset, near the thin crescent Moon.
In the last days of February, Comet Pan-STARRS will be just south of the star Fomalhaut. The comet will skirt the western horizon, always involved in twilight, heading north through the constellations of Aquarius, Pisces and Andromeda. It will reach the far northern constellation of Cassiopeia at the end of April. Full story Video
Dateline - 28 January 2013: Near-Earth approach by asteroid on February 15
On February 15 an asteroid about half the size of a football field will fly past Earth, closer than many man-made satellites. Since regular sky surveys began in the 1990s, astronomers have never seen an object so big come so close to our planet. Full story Video
Dateline - 28 January 2013: Webcam video as bushfire envelopes Siding Spring Observatory
Here is an outside video showing the disastrous bushfire that passed through the Observatory complex at Siding Spring on the afternoon and evening of January 13 last. It was edited from a webcam feed taken from a camera outside the Los Cumbres Observatory Global Network's 2 metre telescope during the blaze. It is a tribute to the bravery of rural fire-fighters that the thirteen telescopes on the mountain survived, although the domes suffered entry by ash and air-borne debris. Click here .
Dateline - 18 January 2013: The comet of the century ?
Astronomers are keeping a close eye on newly-discovered Comet ISON, which could become visible in broad daylight later this year when it skims through the atmosphere of the sun. Some reporters have dubbed ISON the 'Comet of the Century', but experts aren't yet sure how bright the sungrazer will become. Full story Video
Dateline - 14 January 2013: Bushfire envelopes Siding Spring Observatory
It now seems that the telescopes on Siding Spring Mountain have largely avoided destruction by the bushfire that swept over the mountain and whole observatory complex yesterday afternoon. Webcams and computers at the site, used for robotic telescope monitoring and operation, still appear to be working normally, despite temperature sensors indicating a peak air temperature of over 100º C at about 4:25 pm. This is hotter than boiling water. You can see the output from the sensors and some photos here (contributed by Sean). One hopes that the temperature sensors were in the open air, and not inside a building. Some ancillary buildings, sheds, living quarters and the Visitor Centre have been badly damaged or lost. The Observatory will be closed for the next two weeks to allow astronomers and technicians to assess any damage, such as ash entry. With luck, any problems will not be of a serious nature. These images show that the telescopes appear to be intact. Placing astronomical observatories on mountaintops in wilderness areas brings the attendant risks of bushfires. The Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona has had two lucky escapes - once when it was under construction, and another in 2004, the year it was commissioned.
Dateline - 14 January 2013: Bushfire envelopes Siding Spring Observatory
Australian astronomers are waking up to the dreadful news that a large and dangerous bushfire has swept over the world-famous Siding Spring Observatory, New South Wales, home of the Anglo-Australian Telescope, during Sunday afternoon, January 13. All staff at the Observatory were evacuated to nearby Coonabarabran when it became obvious that the situation was desperate. Early reports say that some buildings have been destroyed, but that some have survived. We will have to wait anxiously until Observatory personnel can return to the site and assess the damage. It is four days less than exactly ten years ago that the Mount Stromlo Observatory near Canberra was almost totally destroyed in very similar circumstances. At that time, aluminium domes melted, leaving the telescopes unprotected. The dome of the 74-inch reflector survived the inferno, but the telescope inside was reduced to a total loss due to the intense radiant heat. Mount Stromlo has never recovered and the ruined telescopes will never be replaced. We can but hope that enough lessons were learned at that time to apply more protective measures at Siding Spring other than putting heat-proof paint on the buildings. Google "Siding Spring Observatory bushfire" for latest information.
Dateline - 11 January 2013: Large active sunspot becoming visible
One of the biggest sunspots of the current solar cycle is now turning towards Earth. Named AR1654, the active region is crackling with medium-sized (M-class) flares and could be poised to break the recent spell of calm space weather around our planet. Click here for images and updates.
Dateline - 8 January 2013: How solar activity can influence the Earth's climate
A new report issued by the National Research Council, "The Effects of Solar Variability on Earth's Climate", sets out some of the surprisingly complex ways that solar activity can make itself felt on our planet. Full story
Dateline - 21 December 2012: Sky show on December 25
The Moon and Jupiter are converging for a heavenly sky show on Christmas Night 2012. Got a telescope? Something is happening on Jupiter that makes it an extra-interesting target for backyard optics. Full story Video
Dateline - 21 December 2012: Another Transit of Venus, this time from Saturn
Today, researchers will use NASA's Cassini spacecraft to observe a rare transit of Venus visible from the planet Saturn. Full story
NASA is so sure that the world will not come to an end soon after 9 pm tonight (AEST), they've already released a video about the day after. View 'Why the World Didn't End Yesterday' here .
Dateline - 18 December 2012: GRAIL spacecraft impact on the Moon
NASA has named the site where the two GRAIL (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory) spacecraft hit the Moon today in honour of the late astronaut Sally K. Ride, who was America's first woman in space and a member of the GRAIL mission team. Full story
Dateline - 13 December 2012: Geminid Meteor Shower has begun
The Earth is passing through a stream of debris from 'rock comet' 3200 Phaethon, source of the annual Geminid meteor shower. Around the world, observers are counting as many as 60 shooting stars per hour, a number which could increase sharply as the shower peaks on the nights of December 13-15. Wherever you live, the best time to look is during the dark hours between midnight and sunrise, facing north. Click here for sky maps, photos, and updates.
Dateline - 13 December 2012: NASA gravity probes to hit the Moon next Tuesday
A pair of NASA spacecraft orbiting the Moon are being prepared for a controlled descent into a mountain near the lunar north pole on December 18. The spacecraft, called Ebb and Flow, are part of the GRAIL mission (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory). They have been in orbit around the Moon at a height of 55 kilometres, mapping its gravitational field since the beginning of 2012. On August 30 their orbits were lowered to a height of 23 kilometres, but now their fuel tanks (necessary for orbital corrections) are empty. The impacts are scheduled to occur at 8:28 am next Tuesday, Queensland time. Full story
Dateline - 12 December 2012: 4.5 kilometre asteroid Toutatis passes within 7 million kilometres of the Earth tomorrow
Asteroid 4179 Toutatis is tumbling past Earth tomorrow. Astronomers are taking advantage of the flyby to ping the space rock using NASA radars and obtain images of unprecedented clarity.
Dateline - 11 December 2012: A new meteor shower this week to compete with the Geminids ?
Forecasters say a stream of meteoroids from Comet Wirtanen could cut across the Earth's path this week, creating a new meteor shower. If the shower materialises (a big if), it would add to the ongoing display of Geminid meteors which peaks on December 14 - 15. Full story Video
Dateline - 10 December 2012: Geminids meteor shower this week
The annual Geminid Meteor Shower is set to peak on December 13 to 15. The display, which is caused by an unusual 'rock comet', could produce more than 100 meteors per hour during the dark hours before dawn this Friday and Saturday. Full story
Dateline - 10 December 2012: Sir Patrick Moore dies, aged 89
Sir Patrick Caldwell-Moore (born 1923) died peacefully last night. A well-known populariser of astronomy, he presented a half-hour program, The Sky at Night, on BBC television once a month from April 24, 1957 for over 50 years. In over 700 episodes, Moore only missed one show (July 2004, when he nearly died from food-poisoning). The program covered a wide range of astronomical and space-related topics, including stellar life cycles, radio astronomy, artificial satellites, neutron stars and black holes. The program also referred to what was currently happening in the night sky, especially when something less common, such as a comet or an eclipse was present. Many of the world’s leading astronomical figures appeared on the show throughout the years, including Harlow Shapley, Fred Hoyle, Carl Sagan, Neil Armstrong and the Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees. In his final years, he was confined to a wheelchair and the BBC recorded the program at his Selsey home. In 2011 the Royal Astronomical Society created the Sir Patrick Moore Medal, to be awarded each year for excellence in secondary astronomy teaching. Moore produced the useful Caldwell Catalogue in 1995, listing 109 of the most interesting objects in the sky. Full story
Dateline - 5 December 2012: New and unusual images of the night-time Earth from space
New images from a NASA-NOAA satellite reveal the Earth at night as never seen before. Highlights include views of superstorm Sandy making landfall in moonlight, photos of Northern Lights over the Arctic, and spectacular snapshots of city lights. Full story
Dateline - 4 December 2012: Voyager 1 on the threshold of interstellar space
Eleven billion miles from Earth, NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft has entered a 'magnetic highway' that connects our solar system to interstellar space. This could be one of Voyager 1's last steps on its long journey to the stars. Full story
Dateline - 29 November 2012: Evidence found for ice on Mercury
The planet closest to the Sun would seem an unlikely place to find ice. Nevertheless, NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft has found evidence for abundant deposits of frozen water on Mercury. Full story
Dateline - 23 November 2012: Major discovery on Mars ?
The Mars Curiosity rover team is set to announce a 'major discovery' on the surface of the Red Planet that 'will be one for the history books'. Full story (Contributed by Lee)
Dateline - 23 November 2012: Australian solar eclipse pictures
Eclipse chasers always hope for clear skies, but observers of last week's total solar eclipse in Australia discovered that clouds can add a surprisingly beautiful twist to the brief minutes of totality. Full story Video
Dateline - 22 November 2012: Activity detected at the centre of our GalaxyNASA's NuSTAR spacecraft has detected X-ray flares coming from the centre of the galaxy - a signal that the Milky Way's supermassive black hole is increasing its activity. Full story Video
Dateline - 11 November 2012: Taurid Meteor Shower this week
The Earth is passing through a stream of gravelly debris from Comet Encke, source of the annual Taurid meteor shower. Because the debris stream is not very congested, Taurid meteor rates are low, no more than 5 per hour. The special thing about Taurids is that they tend to be fireballs. Click here for the latest videos and images of the display, which is expected to peak around November 12 and 13.
Dateline - 8 November 2012: Total Solar Eclipse next Wednesday
Scientists and sky watchers are converging on the northeast coast of Australia, near the Great Barrier Reef, for a total eclipse of the sun on November 14. For researchers, the brief minutes of totality open a window into some of the deepest mysteries of solar physics. Full story Video
Dateline - 31 October 2012: Mars soil is like that on Hawaii ?
New results from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity show that the mineralogy of some Martian soil is similar to soils of volcanic origin in Hawaii. Full story
Dateline - 5 October 2012: CSIRO opens the Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP)
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has commissioned its latest radio telescope in Western Australia. Called the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, it currently consisted of an array of 36 12-metres dish antennas. It is a first step in the creation of Australia's part in the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). Press release
Dateline - 27 September 2012: Latest news from Mars
Dateline - 25 September 2012: New sun-grazing comet
Astronomers are paying close attention to a newly-discovered comet, C/2012 S1 (ISON), which is heading for a remarkably close encounter with the sun. Fierce solar heat could turn Comet ISON into a bright naked-eye object in November 2013. First images and speculation about the comet are highlighted here (set the date to September 25, 2012).
Dateline - 14 September 2012: Mysterious spheroids on Mars
NASA's Mars rover Opportunity, still active after all these years, has just discovered a dense accumulation of puzzling little spheroids in a rock outcrop on the Red Planet. Full story
Dateline- 12 September 2012: Planets around a binary star
Once, astronomers thought planets couldn't form around binary stars. Now Kepler has found a whole system of planets orbiting a double star. This finding shows that planetary systems are weirder and more abundant than previously thought. Full story
Dateline - 11 September 2012: Explosion on Jupiter
Amateur astronomers are reporting a bright fireball on Jupiter - apparently the result of a small asteroid hitting the planet during the early hours of Sept. 10th. As the fireball fades, attention turns to possible debris around the impact site. Observers will be monitoring the region in the nights ahead to see what surfaces. Click here for photos and updates.
Dateline - 3 September 2012: CME hits Earth
As expected, a coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth's magnetic field on September 3 at approximately 12:00 hrs UT (10 pm, Australian Eastern Standard Time). The impact induced measurable ground currents in the soil of northern Scandinavia and sparked bright aurorae around the Arctic Circle. At the time this alert is being issued, a moderately strong (Kp=6) geomagnetic storm is underway. Click here for photos and updates.
Dateline - 1 September 2012: Magnificent Eruption on the Sun
On August 31, a magnetic filament on the Sun erupted in spectacular fashion, producing a long-duration solar flare, a coronal mass ejection (CME) and one of the most beautiful movies of an explosion ever recorded by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory. The CME propelled by the blast might deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field in the days ahead. Click here for movies, forecasts and updates.
Dateline - 30 August 2012: Probing the Van Allen Belts
Most spacecraft try to avoid the Van Allen Belts, two doughnut-shaped regions around Earth filled with 'killer electrons'. This morning NASA launched two heavily-shielded spacecraft directly into the belts. The Radiation Belt Storm Probes are on a two-year mission to study the Van Allen Belts and to unravel the mystery of their dangerous unpredictability. Full story Video
Dateline - 27 August 2012: Recalling the Apollo 11 Moon landing of 43 years ago
The Apollo 11 moon landing of July 1969 was as heart-pounding as any modern sci-fi thriller - and far more transformative. To mark the passing of the man who stepped out of the lunar lander and put his footprint in the moondust first, NASA invites you to read a retrospective story about Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's historic visit to the Sea of Tranquillity. Rare photos of Neil Armstrong
Dateline - 22 August 2012: Curiosity is on the move
Curiosity has made its first tire tracks on Mars. On August 22, the massive rover began driving from its landing site, which scientists have named 'Bradbury Landing' for the late science fiction author Ray Bradbury. Full story Video
Dateline - 19 August 2012: Curiosity zaps first Martian rock
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has fired its laser for the first time on Mars, using the beam to study a fist-size rock called 'Coronation'. Full story
Dateline - 17 August 2012: Where on Mars will Curiosity go first ?
Curiosity is safe on Mars and ready to roll. In today's story, project scientist John Grotzinger discusses where the rover might go first.
Dateline - 6 August 2012: Next generation Martian rover Curiosity has landed successfully
NASA's most advanced Mars rover Curiosity has landed on the Red Planet. The 900 kilogram rover, hanging by ropes from a rocket sky-hook, touched down gently onto Mars yesterday to end a 36-week flight and begin a two-year investigation. Control of the seven-minute hazardous descent was handled through Canberra's Tidbinbilla tracking station's 70-metre diameter dish antenna. Tidbinbilla also received telemetry from the spacecraft and the first pictures taken from the surface, and relayed these to Pasadena in California. As the Goldstone and Madrid antennas could not observe Mars at the time of the landing, the role played by Tidbinbilla was paramount to the success of the mission. As with the landing of Apollo 11 on the Moon in 1969, Australia's radio telescopes saw these events first and relayed them to the world. Another Australian connection with the mission is the site chosen for the landing, Gale Crater. It is named after Walter Frederick Gale, an Australian amateur astronomer who observed Mars in the 19th century. Full story
With split-second timing, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured an amazing snapshot of Curiosity parachuting to the surface of Mars. Story and pictures
Dateline - 29 July 2012: Martian triangle in the sky
On the same night Curiosity lands on Mars, a 'Martian Triangle' will appear in sunset skies of Earth. The first-magnitude apparition on August 6 gives space fans something to do while they wait for news from the Red Planet. Full story Video
Dateline - 28 July 2012: New African Eye on the Sky
Two days ago, the largest Cherenkov telescope ever built blinked open to gaze at the Namibian sky. Named HESS II, the giant telescope's 600-tonne bulk and 28-metre segmented mirror will survey the southern hemisphere, hunting for violent, high-energy cosmic sources such as supermassive black holes, supernovae and pulsars. Full story (Contributed by Lee.)
Dateline - 24 July 2012: Is global warming real ?
For several days this month, Greenland's surface ice cover melted over a larger area than at any time in more than 30 years of satellite observations. Nearly the entire ice cover of Greenland experienced some degree of melting, according to measurements from three independent satellites. Full story
Dateline - 16 July 2012: New Mars Rover approaching the Red Planet
As Curiosity nears Mars for a daring landing on August 5/6, NASA has released a suite of video games and virtual experiences for members of the general public who wish to follow the massive rover across the sands of the Red Planet. Full story
Dateline - 16 July 2012: Filaments of dark matter 'observed' for the first time
Is this the first direct evidence that the universe is filled by a lacework of dark matter filaments, upon which the visible matter in the universe is distributed like small beads? Full story (Contributed by Lee.)
Dateline - 13 July 2012: Solar flare aimed towards Earth
The big sunspot AR1520 erupted on July 13 around 2:53 Australian Eastern Standard Time, producing an X-class solar flare and hurling a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) directly toward Earth. Forecasters expect the cloud to arrive on July 14. Its impact could spark moderate to severe geomagnetic storms, allowing aurorae to be seen at lower latitudes than usual. Click here for more information and updates.
Dateline - 12 July 2012: Astronomers find evidence of dark galaxies
Astronomers in Chile using a powerful telescope have observed what appears to be evidence of the existence of dark galaxies. Full story((Contributed by Sharon.)
Dateline - 12 July 2012: Another moon discovered orbiting Pluto
While scanning the Pluto system for possible hazards to the approaching New Horizons spacecraft, astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have discovered a fifth satellite orbiting the dwarf planet, and it is the smallest.Full story (Contributed by Sharon) NASA report
Dateline - 11 July 2012: Hubble Ultra-deep Field in 3D
Here is what happened when astronomers pointed the Hubble Space Telescope at what appeared to be absolutely nothing, and left it there for a photographic exposure of 11 days. Then they made the images into a 3-D presentation, using the red-shifts for the galaxies that were recorded. The results will surprise you. Turn your sound on - there is a narration.Video (Contributed by Gary.)
Dateline - 11 July 2012: Elqui Domos - the hotel for astronomers
Want to watch the stars wheeling overhead from your hotel bed? You can do it from here . (Contributed by Lee.)
Dateline - 21 June 2012: Voyager 1 prepares to leave the Solar System
Dateline - 15 June 2012: Why won't the supernova explode ?
A question has been troubling astronomers: why won't the supernova explode? While real stars blow up, computer models of massive dying stars do not result in much of a bang. NASA has launched a new observatory named "NuSTAR" to seek out the missing physics of stellar explosions. Full story
Dateline - 11 June 2012: Landing site chosen for next Mars Rover, due to arrive in eight weeks
NASA has narrowed the landing zone for Mars rover Curiosity, which is due to reach the Red Planet in August. The rover will touch down closer to its science target, but also closer to the foot of a mountain slope that poses a landing hazard. Full story
Dateline - 9 June 2012: NASA gets two Hubble-class space telescopes from the Military
Two space telescopes with mirrors as big as that in the Hubble Space Telescope have been given to NASA by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) for free. Designed as spy satellites, they are now regarded as surplus to requirements, and have never flown. Find out more by clicking here . (Contributed by Lee.)
Dateline - 9 June 2012: New photographs of Mars released
See 35 high resolution pictures of the Martian surface taken by the Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter (MRO) by clicking here . (Contributed by Lee.)
Dateline - 7 June 2012: Hubble and Venus transit the Sun
Transits of Venus are rare. Transits of Venus with the Hubble Space Telescope alongside are unprecedented. Astrophotographer Thierry Legault has captured a historic photo of Hubble crossing the face of the sun right beside the inky-black disk of Venus. It is highlighted on today's edition of Spaceweather - click here .
The world's largest collection of Venus Transit images may be found in Space Weather's new real-time photo gallery - click here .
Dateline - 5 June 2012: Transit of Venus today
The historic 2012 Transit of Venus commences today, June 6. On the Sunshine Coast of Queensland, it will begin at 8:15 am and end at 2:26 pm. Mid-point of the transit will occur at 11:20 am. It is important to know that staring at the Sun at any time, whether during a transit or not, is extremely dangerous. Eye damage will occur within a second, and continued exposure will lead to blindness. Astronomers use special filters to protect their eyes and cameras. The use of dark glass, welding goggles or exposed photographic film provides no protection at all. If you don't have access to approved solar filters, the safest way to see the transit is to watch it on television.
Spaceweather.com is covering the event with observing tips, a real-time photo gallery, and links to live webcasts from around the world. Extraordinary photos of Venus taken during the hours leading up to the transit are also featured. Click here .
Dateline - 5 June 2012: Transit of Venus tomorrow
Astronomers hope to glimpse a 'ring of fire' around Venus during its historic transit across the sun on June 6. The apparition, if it is seen, could help crack some of the deepest mysteries of the second planet. Full story Video
Dateline - 31 May 2012: Transit of Venus to be watched from the International Space Station
High above Earth, astronaut Don Pettit is about to become the first human to witness and photograph a transit of Venus from space. His images and commentary will be streamed to Earth during the crossing. Full story Video
Dateline - 31 May 2012: We are on a collision course with the Andromeda Galaxy - impact in 7 billion years' time
NASA astronomers announced today that they can now predict with certainty the next major cosmic event to affect our galaxy, sun, and solar system: the titanic collision of our Milky Way galaxy with the neighbouring Andromeda Galaxy. Full story
Dateline - 29 May 2012: Close encounter with a small asteroid tonight
A small asteroid is flying past Earth today inside the orbit of geosynchronous satellites and only 14 000 kilometres above the surface of our planet. Named '2012 KT42', the three to ten metre wide space rock ranks #6 on the Top-Twenty list of known close-approachers to Earth, which makes it significant despite its small size. However, it poses no danger. More information and images may be found here .
Dateline - 28 May 2012: Partial lunar eclipse next Monday night
On Monday evening, June 4, the Moon will pass through the shadow of the Earth, producing a partial lunar eclipse visible throughout the Pacific hemisphere.From eastern Australia, the eclipse will begin at 6:47 pm as the Moon enters the Earth's penumbra. This part of the eclipse will be hardly noticeable to the casual observer. The Moon will move into the Earth's main shadow or umbra at 7:59 pm, and this begins the main part of the eclipse which will be easily seen with the unaided eye by everyone who cares to look. Mid-eclipse will occur at 9:03 pm, when 38% of the Moon will be in darkness - virtually everything south of the crater Arzachel. The umbral phase will end at 10:07 pm, and the eclipse will be over at 11:07 pm. Full story
Dateline - 28 May 2012: Ruby Payne-Scott's 100th birthday
The first woman radio astronomer was Ruby Payne-Scott, known for her towering intellect and singular way of thinking for herself. She was an Australian who did all her research for the CSIR and then the CSIRO. Most of her pioneering research was on solar radio bursts. She passed away in 1981, and deserves to be better known. Her story
Dateline - 26 May 2012: Square Kilometre Array to be shared between South Africa and Australia
A decision was made on May 25 that the bulk of the dish antennas of the SKA (over 3000) will be located in South Africa at the MeerKAT site on the Karoo. A smaller number will be in Australia at the Boolardy site in Western Australia. Southern Africa will also host the medium-wave tile antenna arrays, and Australia will host the low-wave dipole arrays. Other southern African nations involved in the project include Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Madagascar, Mauritius, Zambia and Kenya. New Zealand is partnered with Australia. This will produce a planet-wide radio telescope, and South Africa will have the world's largest scientific instrument on its soil, with two-thirds of the SKA. It seems that the higher labour costs in Western Australia (due to the mining boom) damaged Australia's chances of winning the whole SKA. Full story
Dateline - 24 May 2012: Dragon chases International Space Station
As SpaceX's Dragon capsule approaches the International Space Station for a historic docking on May 25, amateur astronomers have been taking pictures of the two spaceships converging. Their photos and more information about the Dragon-ISS rendezvous are highlighted on today's edition of Spaceweather .
Dateline - 18 May 2012: Annular Solar Eclipse next Monday
On Monday, May 20, the Moon will pass in front of the Sun, producing a 'ring of fire' solar eclipse visible across the Pacific side of Earth from China to the United States. Observing tips, visibility maps, and links to live webcasts may be found here . The eclipse will not be visible from Australia.
Dateline - 18 May 2012: Transit of Venus on June 6
It won't happen again until December 11, 2117. On June 6, 2012, Venus will transit the face of the sun. The historic event will be visible from Queensland between 8:16 am and 2:44 pm, weather permitting. Do not look at the Sun to see the transit without correct eye protection filters. Full story
Dateline - 16 May 2012: List of PHAs (Potentially Hazardous Asteroids)
NASA has just released a new count of asteroids that come close to the orbit of Earth and could survive entry through our planet's atmosphere. The data, gathered by an infrared space telescope named WISE, reveal important new information about the origin and make-up of these potentially hazardous space rocks. Full story
Dateline - 15 May 2012: Solar eclipse this Chinese space station transits the Sun
On the morning of Monday, May 21, the Moon will pass in front of the Sun, producing an annular solar eclipse visible across the Pacific side of Earth from China to the United States. No part of the eclipse will be visible from Australia. Full story
Dateline - 14 May 2012: Chinese space station transits the Sun
A photographer in France has caught China's experimental space station, the Tiangong-1, passing directly in front of the sun. The photo shows the winged spacecraft backlit by hot plasma as it crosses the solar disc in the vicinity of giant sunspot AR1476. You can find it here . Tiangong-1 is much smaller than the International Space Station. Nevertheless, it can be seen with the naked eye shining in the night sky as brightly as the stars of Leo. Download the Simple Flybys app for sighting opportunities in your neighbourhood: http://simpleflybys.com
Dateline - 8 May 2012: NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope detects a 'super-Earth' beyond our solar system
The planet, called 55 Cancri e, falls into a class of planets termed super-Earths, which are more massive than our home world but lighter than giant planets like Neptune. The planet is about twice as big and eight times as massive as Earth. It orbits a bright star, called 55 Cancri, in a mere 18 hours. Full story
Dateline - 3 May 2012: The Aquarid meteor swarm is on this weekend
Earth is entering a stream of debris from Halley's Comet, source of the annual eta Aquarid meteor shower. The shower peaks this weekend on May 5-6. Glare from a perigee full Moon - a 'Super Moon' - will interfere with the display. Nevertheless, observers especially in the southern hemisphere could still see dozens of meteors during the hours before local sunrise on May 6. More information about the shower and live audio from a meteor radar may be foundhere .
Dateline - 2 May 2012: Full Moon this weekend is biggest and brightest Full Moon this year
The Full Moon of next Sunday night, 6 May, is a perigee moon, as much as 14% bigger and 30% brighter than other Full Moons of 2012.Full story
Dateline - 21 April 2012: The Lyrid meteor shower is on this weekend
The annual Lyrid meteor shower peaks this weekend on the night of April 22-23 when Earth passes through a stream of debris from ancient Comet Thatcher. Usually the shower is mild (10-20 meteors per hour) but unmapped filaments of dust in the comet's tail sometimes trigger outbursts ten times stronger. This year's peak coincides with a new Moon, so lunar interference will not be a problem. The promise of a good display has prompted NASA to plan an unusual 3D meteor photography experiment combining observations from the ground, a research balloon, and the International Space Station. Look towards the north-east in the hours between 2 am and dawn. More information, observing tips, and live audio from a meteor radar are available here .
Dateline - 18 April 2012: The Lyrid meteor shower in 3D
Astronomers and astronauts are joining forces for an unusual astrophotography experiment during the peak of the Lyrid meteor shower on April 21. Full story
Dateline - 17 April 2012: Spectacular explosion on Sun
This morning at around 3:45 am AEST, magnetic fields curling over the sun's northeastern limb rose up and erupted, producing one of the most visually-spectacular explosions in years. The event, which also produced an M1.7-class solar flare and a coronal mass ejection, was not Earth-directed. Nevertheless, it confirms suspicions that a significant active region is rotating onto the Earth-side of the sun. Click here for movies and updates (set date to April 16).
Dateline - 13 April 2012: New information on tornadoes
One year after the historic tornado outbreak of April 27-28, 2011, researchers say they've learned a few things about deadly twisters. Today's story from NASA presents some of the scientific findings that emerged from the swath of destruction. Full story Video
Dateline - 6 April 2012: The scale of the universe
Human beings exist in the centre of the universe - not with regards to our position in space, but midway between the microcosm and the macrocosm. Click here. Use your mouse wheel to move the slider backward and forward. Contributed by Tim Metelerkamp and Gary Taylor.
Dateline - 5 April 2012: Decision on location of Square Kilometre Array (SKA) delayed
The international consortium to decide whether the SKA should be built in Australia or South Africa has appointed another working party to deliberate on the recommendations of the first, which recommended that the SKA should be built in Africa, with telescopes in eight countries, two of which are engaged in civil wars. The first working party stated that building the SKA in Africa would improve the lot of the native peoples there. Such a statement clearly emphasises the apparent disconnect between ivory-tower academics and the real world. News report
Dateline - 2 April 2012: Venus passes through the Pleiades star cluster on April 3 and 4
Tonight and tomorrow night, Venus and the Pleiades star cluster will meet in the evening sky for a rare and beautiful conjunction. Full story
Dateline - 16 March 2012: Peculiar high-energy photons discovered
NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is finding hundreds of new objects at the very edge of the electromagnetic spectrum. Many of them have one thing in common -- astronomers have no idea what they are. Full story
Dateline - 14 March 2012: Incoming solar stormSunspot AR1429 unleashed another strong flare (category M7.9) on March 13. The explosion produced a significant coronal mass ejection (CME), which forecasters say should reach Earth on March 15. Geomagnetic storms are possible when the cloud arrives. Click here for updates..
Dateline - 14 March 2012: Sun-diving comet
A bright comet related to sungrazing Comet Lovejoy is diving into the sun. The orbiting Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) is monitoring the comet's death plunge even as the sun peppers the spacecraft with energetic particles accelerated by the March 13 solar flare. Images of the comet are featured on today's edition of Spaceweather .
Dateline - 7 March 2012: Increasing solar activity
Big sunspot AR1429 has unleashed another major flare - an X5-class eruption on March 7 at 10:28 am, Queensland time. As a result of the blast, a radiation storm is underway and a CME (coronal mass ejection) will likely hit Earth's magnetic field in a day or so. Geomagnetic storms are already in progress at high latitudes due to earlier eruptions from the active sunspot. Last night, auroras were spotted over several northern US states including Michigan and Wisconsin. Click here for updates and images.
Dateline - 2 March 2012: The aurora borealis at your feet
Lately, the International Space Station has been flying through geomagnetic storms, giving astronauts an close-up view of the aurora borealis just outside their windows. Full story
Dateline - 23 February 2012: 25 years since SN 1987A
Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of the appearance of the Large Magellanic Cloud supernova SN 1987A. Full story
Dateline - 21 February 2012: Solar eclipse from space
At 8:38 am this morning, February 22 AEST, the new Moon passed in front of the sun, producing a solar eclipse visible from space. High-resolution images of the event captured by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory are featured here .
Dateline - 13 February 2012: International Space Station flyover of Aurora Borealis produces stunning video
Please click here for the video sequence. (Contributed by Lee.)
Dateline - 10 February 2012: Alien matter in the solar system
"Alien matter" detected by a NASA spacecraft orbiting Earth shows that the chemical make-up of our solar system differs from that of the surrounding galaxy. Researchers discuss the possible meaning of this mismatch in today's story from Science@NASA. Full story
A video version of this story is available here .
Dateline - 2 February 2012: Space probe to land on a comet in 2014
Europe’s Rosetta spacecraft is en route to intercept a comet, and to make history. In 2014, Rosetta will enter orbit around Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and land a probe on it for a front row seat as the comet heads toward the disintegrating heat of the Sun. Full story
A video version of this story is available here .
Dateline - 27 January 2012: Powerful solar X-flare
Earth-orbiting satellites detected a powerful X2-class solar flare today, January 28, at 1837 UT (4:37 am AEST). The source was departing sunspot 1402. The blast produced a spectacular CME (not Earth directed) and accelerated energetic protons toward Earth. A low-level radiation storm is now in progress around our planet. Please click herefor images and updates.
Dateline - 22 January 2012: Geomagnetic activity
The Earth's magnetic field is reverberating from a CME impact (Coronal Mass Ejection from the Sun) during the eveningy hours of January 22 AEST. The hit compressed Earth's magnetic field, briefly exposing some geosynchronous satellites to solar wind plasma, and disturbed the ionisation structure of Earth's upper atmosphere. Arctic sky watchers are presently reporting bright aurorae in response to a polar geomagnetic storm (Kp=5). Please click here for images and updates.
Dateline - 12 January 2012: Stars blowing bubbles to be counted
An effort to find the "bubbles" that young, massive stars blow has succeeded in finding more than 10 times as many as were known about before. Members of the public are invited to examine astronomical photographs on-line in order to search for more of them. Some may be seen in the Starfield Observatory image below. Full story (Contributed by Lee.)
The Cat's Paw Nebula
Dateline - 12 January 2012: Some comets like it hot
Astronomers are still scratching their heads over Comet Lovejoy, which plunged through the atmosphere of the sun in December and, against all odds, survived. The comet is now receding into the outer solar system leaving many mysteries behind. Full story A video version of this story is available here .
Dateline - 11 January 2012: Tiny solar system discovered
NASA's Kepler spacecraft has discovered the tiniest solar system so far: a red dwarf star with three rocky planets smaller than Earth. Full story
Dateline - 5 January 2012: Failed Mars probe photographed
Phobos-Grunt, a Russian Mars probe stuck in Earth orbit since November, is sinking back into the atmosphere. Best estimates suggest re-entry will occur on January 15 or 16. Meanwhile, sky-watchers can see the probe moving through the night sky, sometimes shining as brightly as a first-magnitude star. French astrophotographer Thierry Legault recently photographed Phobos-Grunt through a 14-inch telescope, revealing its outlines and perhaps a clue as to why the probe has had difficulty communicating with Earth. His images and video are highlighted here (set date to January 5).
Dateline - 3 January 2012: First meteor shower of 2012
The annual Quadrantid meteor shower peaks on Thursday morning, January 5, when Earth passes through a narrow stream of debris from a comet thought to have broken apart some 500 years ago. The shower is expected to be strong (as many as 100 meteors per hour), but elusive, with a peak that lasts no longer than a couple of hours. The shower's radiant near Polaris favours observers in the northern hemisphere. Images, live audio from a meteor radar, and more information are available here .
Dateline - 30 December 2011: Origin of meteorites from the asteroid Vesta ?
The discovery of a towering mountain on Vesta could solve a longstanding mystery: How did so many pieces of the giant asteroid end up right here on our own planet? Full story
Dateline - 30 December 2011: New spacecraft due to go into lunar orbit in a couple of days
NASA's twin GRAIL spacecraft, on a mission to map the Moon's gravitational field, are nearing their New Year's Eve and New Year's Day main-engine burns to place the duo in lunar orbit. Full story
Dateline - 28 December 2011: Comet Lovejoy photograph
The following photograph of Comet Lovejoy was taken from Starfield Observatory at Nambour at 3:38 am on Tuesday, December 27. The comet's nucleus is at R.A. 16 hours 58 minutes, Dec. -46 degrees 53 minutes, near the boundary between the constellations Scorpius and Ara. The tail appears on the image to be at least 26 degrees long. As it was superimposed on the molecular clouds that make a dark lane extending from Alpha Centauri to the galactic centre and beyond, it was quite easy to see with the unaided eye. Some stars of the Southern Cross (Alpha and Beta Crucis) appear near the top right-hand corner of the image. The comet is moving away from the Sun, heading towards the star Atria in Triangulum Australe (Southern Triangle) and the South Celestial Pole. The tail is fainter on each successive morning.
This comet was discovered on November 27, 2011 by Terry Lovejoy, a Brisbane amateur astronomer. It is the third comet to bear his name.
Dateline - 23 December 2011: Comet Lovejoy photographs
Astronauts onboard the International Space Station have seen sungrazing Comet Lovejoy from Earth orbit. ISS commander Dan Burbank describes the comet's green-glowing tail as "the most amazing thing I have ever seen in space." Video from the ISS and updated images from Earth are highlighted here .
Dateline - 20 December 2011: Two more Earth-sized planets discovered
NASA's Kepler spacecraft has found two Earth-sized planets orbiting a distant sun-like star. These alien worlds are intermingled in their star system with other much larger planets, an arrangement which challenges orthodox ideas of how planets are formed. Full story
Dateline - 20 December 2011: Comet Lovejoy survives encounter with Sun, now visible at dawn
Comet Lovejoy is receding from the sun, remarkably still intact after its December 16 plunge through the solar atmosphere. Multiple observers in the southern hemisphere are now reporting that they can see and photograph the comet's tail shining through the twilight of sunrise. Pictures of this rare apparition are highlighted here f(ensure you have the date of December 20 chosen).
Dateline - 16 December 2011: Comet Lovejoy collides with Sun
Sungrazing Comet Lovejoy has shocked astronomers by surviving its 'death plunge' into the sun. Must-see movies of the comet's passage through the sun's atmosphere are featured in today's story.
Dateline - 10 December 2011: Eclipse of the Moon tonight
A total eclipse of the Moon will occur on December 10 next, and will be visible
from all of Australia. It will begin later in the evening, and will continue
until the early hours of December 11. The circumstances are as follows
Penumbral eclipse begins: 9:34 pm;
Partial umbral eclipse begins: 10:46 pm;
Total eclipse begins: 12:06 am;
Mid-eclipse: 12:32 am;
Total eclipse ends: 12:57 am;
Partial umbral eclipse ends: 2:18 am;
Penumbral eclipse ends: 3:20 am.
Eclipses of the Moon are quite safe to look at.
Dateline - 9 December 2011: Is Vesta the smallest terrestrial planet ?
NASA's Dawn probe, now orbiting Vesta in the asteroid belt, has found some surprising things on the giant asteroid- - hings that have prompted one researcher to declare Vesta "the smallest terrestrial planet." Full story
Dateline - 8 December 2011: New evidence for water on Mars
As NASA's newest Mars rover Curiosity heads for the Red Planet, veteran rover Opportunity continues to make discoveries. Opportunity's latest find, an apparent vein of the mineral gypsum, is a definite sign of past water on Mars, say researchers. Full story
Dateline - 5 December 2011: Kepler space observatory finds a habitable planet
In a significant milestone on the road to finding Earth's 'twin' elsewhere in the galaxy, NASA's Kepler mission has confirmed its first planet in the habitable zone of a distant sun-like star. Full story
Dateline - 3 December 2011: New Horizons spacecraft passes a milestone
NASA's New Horizons mission has reached a special milestone on its way to study the Pluto system, coming closer to the dwarf planet than any other spacecraft. On board New Horizons are some of the ashes of Clyde Tombaugh, the man who discovered Pluto, and an experiment called Venetia, after the little girl who named it. Full story
Dateline - 26 November 2011: Coronal mass ejection and radiation storm
A solar radiation storm is in progress around Earth. At the moment (the early afternoon of November 27), the storm is classified as minor, which means it has little effect on our planet other than to disturb HF radio transmissions at high latitudes. Bigger effects, however, could be in the offing. The same blast that caused the radiation storm also hurled a CME into space, and this CME appears set to deliver a blow to Earth's magnetic field on November 28-29. Geomagnetic storms and aurorae are possible when the cloud arrives. Click here for more information and updates.
Dateline - 26 November 2011: Mars rover Curiosity is now on its way to the red planet
NASA's biggest and most capable Mars rover ever (as big as an SUV) left Earth this morning in a perfect launch from Cape Canaveral. The new rover, named Curiosity, is due to reach the Red Planet in August 2012. Full story
Dateline - 16 November 2011: Evidence found for liquid water on Jupiter's moon Europa
Scientists studying data from NASA's Galileo probe have found evidence for a body of liquid water the volume of the North American Great Lakes locked inside the icy shell of Jupiter’s moon Europa. The finding could have significant implications for the search for life beyond Earth. Full story
Dateline - 14 November 2011: Does the Moon have an ionosphere ?
How can a world without air have an ionosphere? Somehow the Moon has done it. Lunar researchers have been struggling with the mystery for years, and they may have finally found a solution. Full story
Dateline - 13 November 2011: Massive increase in solar activity
The sun is putting on one of its best displays in the new solar cycle - not with sunspots and flares, but rather with towering walls of plasma and filaments of magnetism. One dark filament is stretching more than a million kilometres across the face of the sun, about three times the distance between Earth and the Moon. Click here for pictures and more information about these remarkable structures.
Dateline - 7 November 2011: Near-Earth asteroid close flyby tomorrow
NASA radars are monitoring 2005 YU55, an asteroid the size of an aircraft carrier, as it heads for a November 9 flyby of the Earth-Moon system. There is no danger to our planet. At closest approach on Wednesday at 9:28 am Australian Eastern Standard Time, the space rock will be 324 600 kilometres away, a little closer than the Moon. Nevertheless, professional astronomers are eagerly anticipating the flyby as the asteroid presents an exceptionally strong radar target. Amateur astronomers in Europe or America might be able to photograph it during the hours around closest approach, but this will occur in daylight hours for Australian observers. Click here for observing tips and more information.
Dateline - 3 November 2011: Huge sunspot appears
One of the biggest sunspot groups in many years has just emerged over the sun's eastern limb. The sunspot's magnetic canopy is crackling with M-class (medium-sized) solar flares and seems poised to launch even stronger X-class eruptions. The sunspot, named AR1339, is not yet directly facing Earth but it will be turning toward our planet in the days ahead. Click here for images of the behemoth and updates.