and information from the Royal Astronomical Society)
Note: some links on this page will have expired, as the news is no longer
topical. Some remain active for only a couple of days. Stories from
for previous days can be accessed through their
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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.
Interesting research news
(latest news first):
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
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
Telescope. The GMT is expected to see first light in
2016. GMT Home page ANU's involvement
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'.
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
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
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
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
The Swift Gamma-ray Observatory
observed its first gamma-ray burst on
January 17, two months after launch.
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.
ESA's Smart-1 spacecraft
reached its final operational orbit around the
Moon in late February. The mission has been extended until August 2006.
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.
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
ESO Very Large Telescope Interferometer (VLTI). It will allow astronomers to see details up
to 25 times clearer than with the individual telescopes.
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
Images from space of the December 26, 2004 tsunami
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
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?
information about Sedna
ESA solar spacecraft Ulysses has passed through two, and possibly three
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.
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
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.
Astronomical Headlines from the IAU (International Astronomical Union):
SPACE WEATHER UNIVERSE TODAY
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
(Contributed by Susheela)
Dateline - 5 March 2015 - The first ever photograph of light
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
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.
for the full story.
Dateline - 24 February 2015 - Chinese rocket's spectacular
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
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
Dateline - 12 February 2015 - Deep Space Climate Observatory
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
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.
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.
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
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.
images and more information.
Dateline - 7 January 2015 - New image of the 'Pillars of
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'.
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.
images and more information.
Dateline - 31 December 2014 - A new explanation for terrestrial
New research shows that terrestrial gamma-ray flashes arise from
an unexpected diversity of thunderstorms storms and may be more common than
Dateline - 31 December 2014 - Good news on forests and carbon
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dateline - 20 December 2014 - Massive X-flare on the Sun
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.
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/Churyumov–Gerasimenko
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.
Dateline - 19 December 2014 - Southern Hemisphere carbon
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.
Dateline - 19 December 2014 - New evidence for a water reservoir
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.
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
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.
Dateline - 12 December 2014 - Earth encounters debris from a
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.
Dateline - 7 December 2014 - New Horizons wakes up on
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.
Dateline - 6 December 2014 - Astronauts face a growing peril from
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
first news report.
Dateline - 12 November 2014 - An image of the birth of a new planetary
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.
(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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Dateline - 17 October 2014 - Solar eclipse next week, but not visible
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
(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.
(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.
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.
Dateline - 25 August 2014 - New Horizons crosses the orbit of
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
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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.
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
video and observing tips.
Dateline - 2 August 2014 - Amazing new photo of ESA's Rosetta
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.
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
details of the mission.
Dateline - 28 July 2014 - Another milestone for Mars rover
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
Dateline - 27 July 2014 - Fireballs kick off annual Perseid meteor
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
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.
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.
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'
(Contributed by Tim)
Dateline - 16 July 2014 - Dark matter and dark energy - 'Stalking the
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)
Dateline - 14 July 2014 - Everything you need to know about dark
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Dateline - 18 June 2014 - Live video feed from the International Space
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
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.
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.
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)
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
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.
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.
Dateline - 9 May 2014 - Astronomers create the first realistic virtual
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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'.
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
(Contributed by Tim)
Dateline - 9 March 2014 - The story behind the 'picture of the century'
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.
Dateline - 26 February 2014: New weather satellite to be
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.
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.
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.
Dateline - 14 February 2014: Mars rover solves 'doughnut'
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
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
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.
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.
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
Dateline - 30 January 2014: The coldest spot in the
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.
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
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.
story and pictures (Contributed by Sean)
Dateline - 22 January 2014: Water found on the dwarf
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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