(including reports © NASA and © Spaceweather.com
and information from the Royal Astronomical Society)
Updated: 14 July 2018
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International Space Station news and views
Click here to see the current position of the International Space Station (ISS) and the view from the spacecraft. The lower part of the webpage shows the ground track across the globe. Click on SNAPSHOT when you are in an area of interest. You can navigate using the arrows in the upper-left corner. Also, you can zoom in using the vertical bar with the + and - signs. (Contributed by Tim)
See the International Space Station passing overhead tonight (from the Sunshine Coast, Queensland):
Saturday, 23 December, 2017: The ISS will appear 36º above the west-north-western horizon at 7:01 pm and will reach a maximum elevation of 67º. It will disappear into the Earth's shadow when 10º above the south-eastern horizon. In this flyover, the ISS will be visible for 4 minutes.
Interesting research news (latest news first):
The Australian National University has joined the Giant Magellan Telescope international consortium of research organisations. The GMT is likely to be one of the first of a small number of next-generation Extremely Large Telescopes that are expected to be built in the next 20 years. The telescope's conceptual design anticipates a moving mass of 1000 tonnes and a cylindrical observatory 65 metres high. It will be built by the participating organisations at a site in northern Chile. The primary mirror will have seven circular segments each 8.4 metres across, six of these surrounding the centrally located seventh. The total light-gathering power will be nearly seven times that of the Gemini telescopes, which are the largest ones to which Australian astronomers currently have access, and the images obtained should be ten times clearer than those taken with the Hubble Space Telescope. The GMT is expected to see first light in 2022. GMT Home page Australia's involvement
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
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
The Hubble Space Telescope
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):Click here.
LATEST NEWS 3
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SPACE SPACE WEATHER UNIVERSE TODAY NASA
Dateline - 13 July 2018 - A 'green flash' on Mars
Mars is approaching Earth for a 15-year close encounter
on July 27. The Red Planet is now so bright, it is experiencing forms of
atmospheric optics normally reserved for objects like the Sun and Moon.
Yesterday, an astronomer in Sweden watching Mars witnessed a rare green
flash. Visit today's edition of
for a video of the phenomenon and more information about the martian
Dateline - 9 July 2018 - Radiation hazards to airline passengers and crews from cosmic rays
On the heels of a new study showing that flight attendants have an elevated risk of cancer compared to the general population, a team including
representatives of Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus recently boarded a plane in
Los Angeles and flew to Brisbane carrying an array of cosmic ray
sensors. During their 13 hour flight across the South Pacific, the team detected secondary cosmic rays in the passenger compartment almost 40 times
stronger than on the ground below. Their "haul" of radiation included a significant number of neutrons captured in portable bubble chambers.
The radiation, which included x-rays and gamma rays, almost doubled over the
Coral Sea and the approaches to Brisbane. Read
today's edition of
for the full story.
Dateline - 4 July 2018 - Approaching green comet explodes
A comet that could become visible to the naked eye in August has exploded in brightness, suddenly increasing its luminosity 16-fold. Whatever happened on Comet PANSTARRS (C/2017 S3) on July 1 has given it an expanding green atmosphere almost twice the size of the planet Jupiter. Visit today's edition of Spaceweather and later entries for pictures and more information about this approaching comet.
Dateline - 2 July 2018 - Planet-encircling dust storm on Mars
A martian dust storm that started in late May, silencing
NASA's Opportunity rover, has now wrapped itself around the entirety of Mars, radically transforming the appearance of the Red Planet. Amateur
astronomers are taking pictures of the storm through backyard telescopes, and even naked-eye observers say they can see changes in the planet's colour.
Visit today's edition
for more information and animations.
Dateline - 20 June 2018 - Big sunspot alert
Yesterday, sunspot AR2715 did not exist. Today, it
sprawls across more than 60 000 kilometres of solar surface with a primary
dark core wider than the Earth. So far, the active region has not produced
any big flares, but this could change if its development proceeds apace.
Visit today's edition
for a video of the sunspot's genesis and
information about how it fits into the Solar Minimum.
Dateline - 13 June 2018 - Huge dust storm on Mars
Yesterday, NASA lost contact with the Opportunity
Mars rover as a ferocious dust storm spreads around the Red Planet. Thick
dust has turned day into night at Opportunity's work site in
Perseverance Valley, blocking sunlight to the solar powered rover. Currently
on the verge of circumnavigating Mars, the storm is so large that amateur
astronomers can now see it through backyard telescopes. Visit today's
for an animation of the spreading storm and more
Dateline - 8 June 2018 - Mars now is brighter than Sirius
Mars is approaching Earth for an almost once-in-a-generation close encounter in late July. This week, the brightness of Mars surpassed that of Sirius, making the Red Planet brighter than any star in the night sky. If you are outside at 9 pm, you can't help noticing Mars as a bright, orange, star-like object low to the east-south-eastern horizon, and the show is about to get much better. Visit today's edition of Spaceweather for the full story.
Dateline - 5 June 2018 - Small asteroid collides with Earth
A small asteroid hit Earth on Saturday, June 2, exploding in the atmosphere over Botswana before it could reach the ground. The Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona had discovered the space rock only hours earlier as it hurtled toward our planet from inside the orbit of the Moon. Sensors used to monitor rogue nuclear explosions detected the asteroid's detonation and estimated its strength to be about the same as 480 tonnes of TNT. Visit today's edition of Spaceweather for the full story.
Dateline - 14 May 2018 - Lost asteroid returns to Earth
Eight years ago, astronomers lost a near-Earth asteroid.
They just found it. The space rock, named 2010 WC9, is approaching
Earth for a close encounter on Tuesday, May 15. There's no danger of a
collision, but the ~100 metre wide asteroid will be near enough for amateur
astronomers to photograph. Visit today's
for the full story.
Dateline - 11 May 2018 - Red airglow over the Atacama Desert
Last night, the normally dark skies of Chile's Atacama
Desert lit up with rippling bands of red light. It looked like the aurora
borealis, but it was not. A photographer recorded the unusual apparition of
red airglow, so bright that it outshined parts of the Milky Way.
for photos and an explanation of this
Dateline - 7 May 2018 - STEVE visits the USA
Over the weekend, a solar wind stream engulfed Earth,
sparking stronger-than-expected G2-class geomagnetic storms. At the peak of
the storms, STEVE appeared. The strange ribbon-like aurora travelled south
and was sighted in multiple US states. Visit today's
pictures and learn more about STEVE (see also
Dateline - 11 April 2018
Dateline - 2 May 2018 - Sunspots vanishing faster than expected
So far in 2018, the Sun has been blank more than half the time. Whole weeks have gone by without a single sunspot. Although forecasters have been expecting sunspots to disappear with the approach of Solar Minimum, it is happening faster than predicted. Visit today's edition of Spaceweather to see the data and to find out what it means, here on Earth.
Dateline - 28 April 2018 - Special conjunction of the Moon and Jupiter
On the night of April 30 - May 1, (next Monday night), the Moon and Jupiter will converge in the constellation of Libra for a special conjunction. Jupiter is approaching Earth for a close encounter in early May, making the giant planet a little bigger and brighter than usual. On Monday night, April 30, the Full Moon will glide past the brightening gas giant. It adds up to a display of rare brilliance in the midnight sky. Visit Spaceweather for sky maps and more information.
Dateline - 15 April 2018 - Surprise asteroid flyby
With little warning, on Sunday, April 15, a "Tunguska-class" asteroid
about the size of a football field flew through the Earth-Moon system.
2018 GE3 was discovered just the day before as it plunged inward from
the asteroid belt. A quick-thinking amateur astronomer in Europe was able to
record a video of the asteroid as it flew by.
Visit today's edition
to see the movie and to learn more about this surprise
Dateline - 11 April 2018 - Rare video of STEVE
Last night in parts of Canada, dogs started barking at the midnight sky. The canines were responding to a bright purple ribbon of light - also known as "STEVE" ("Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement") The apparition, which occurred during a G1-class geomagnetic storm, was so long-lasting that at least one onlooker had time to capture rare video of the phenomenon. Visit today's edition of Spaceweather to see STEVE in motion.
Dateline - 11 April 2018 - Geomagnetic storm in progress
A minor G1-class geomagnetic storm is in progress on April 11th as Earth
moves through a high speed stream of solar wind. This is causing bright
auroras around the poles, with Northern Lights sighted as far south as the
Dakotas in the USA. The gaseous material is flowing from a wide hole in the
sun's atmosphere--so wide that the stream could continue to influence our
planet for the next two to three days. Visit
Dateline - 8 April 2018 - Space lightning over Europe
Red sprites (also known as "space lightning") are dancing over
thunderstorms in Europe. A dedicated observatory spotted the eerie red forms
shooting up toward the Pleiades on April 4, marking an unusually early
start to the northern summer season for sprites. Today's edition of
explores the possibility
that this development is related to recent increases in galactic cosmic
Dateline - 26 March 2018 - Chinese Space Station to disintegrate
China's Tiangong-1 space station is about to return to Earth - as a
massive fireball. Low solar activity kept Tiangong-1 in orbit longer
than officials predicted, but it's finally coming down. The European Space
Agency says the 8-tonne craft should re-enter sometime between March 30 and
April 2, a window of uncertainty which will narrow in the days ahead. Visit
for more information and ground tracks.
Dateline - 19 March 2018 - Surprise geomagnetic storm
On March 18, an unexpected crack opened in Earth's magnetic field, sparking a brief but potent G2-class geomagnetic storm. Bright aurorae ringed the Arctic Circle while, in Europe, the light show descended as far south as Germany. With the northern vernal equinox less than a day away, this is the time of year when such cracks tend to form. Today's edition of Spaceweather explains the phenomenon of magnetic cracks and how you can monitor them online.
Dateline - 15 March 2018 - Stephen Hawking has left us
At the age of 22, as a student at Cambridge University,
he was diagnosed with a rare form of motor-neurone disease and given only a
few years to live. The illness progressed slowly and left him wheel-chair
bound, and later almost completely paralysed. He was virtually unable to
speak and was forced to communicate via a voice synthesiser (using one cheek
muscle to operate a mobile computer). Yet he met two US Presidents, flew at
zero gravity in a special plane, and fathered three children, Lucy, Robert
and Tim, who said:
"We are deeply saddened that our beloved father passed away today. He
was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will
live on for many years."
They praised his "courage and persistence" and said his "brilliance and
humour" inspired people across the world.
Dateline - 22 February 2018 - Earth's magnetic field is oscillating
This morning in Lofoten, Norway, a
magnetic observatory picked up unusually pure low-frequency waves rippling
around the Arctic Circle. Known as 'pulsations continuous (Pc)', these rare
magnetic oscillations can energise particles in our planet's magnetosphere,
boosting the brightness of aurorae. Indeed, strong auroras are being seen
right now in Scandinavia. Visit today's edition of Spaceweather
to learn what caused these Pc waves and to
monitor the ongoing display.
Dateline - 20 February 2018 - The roadster and the star cluster
How far away can you see a cherry red
Tesla Roadster? Yesterday, a telescope in Chile spotted Elon Musk's electric
car 3.7 million kilometres from Earth as it was passing by star cluster NGC
5694. Using orbital elements published by NASA, amateur astronomers are
setting new distance records almost every day as they track the Roadster en
route to the orbit of Mars. Visit today's edition of Spaceweather
for updates and a movie of the Roadster and the
Dateline - 19 February 2018 - Geomagnetic storm in progress
A G1-class geomagnetic storm is
underway on February 19 as Earth enters a stream of fast-moving solar wind.
G1-class storms are relatively minor and have little effect on satellites or
global power grids. However, they can spark bright auroras around the Arctic
Circle and confuse migratory animals that navigate using magnetism at high
latitudes. Visit Spaceweather
for more information and updates.
Dateline - 14 February 2018 - Sunspot explodes - hurls CME at Earth
On February 12, the magnetic canopy
of sunspot AR2699 exploded, for more than six hours. The slow-motion blast
produced a C1-class solar flare and hurled a coronal mass ejection (CME)
almost directly toward Earth. NOAA forecasters say there is a 60% chance of
minor G1-class geomagnetic storms with isolated periods of stronger G2
storming when the CME arrives on February 14 or 15. Visit Spaceweather
for more information about this event and the possible visibility of
Dateline - 9 February 2018 - Amateur astronomers photograph Tesla motor car in space:
"It's the craziest thing I've ever captured in my telescope," says amateur astronomer Raymond Kneip. Last night, he photographed Elon Musk's cherry red Roadster 430 000 kilometres from Earth, heading toward the orbit of Mars. NASA has just released an ephemeris (celestial co-ordinates) for the electric car, allowing astronomers to track and photograph the Tesla as it recedes into deep space. Pictures of the Roadster and instructions for accessing NASA's ephemeris may be found on today's edition of Spaceweather .
The first remarkable Space-X mission in which a rocket with two boosters was flown to the threshold of space can be viewed here . Both boosters detached and returned to Earth, landing simultaneouslyin vertical positions, while the main rocket landed safely, also vertical, on a ship at sea. I kid you not.
Dateline - 5 February 2018 - A solar minimum sunspot:
With Solar Minimum right around the
corner, sunspot counts are at an almost ten year low. So it came as a
surprise yesterday when a relatively large sunspot emerged near the sun's
eastern limb. AR2699 has a primary dark core larger than the Earth with many
smaller magnetic condensations trailing behind it, in all stretching more
than 75 00 km across the sun's surface. Rare "solar minimum sunspots" are
capable of intense explosions just like sunspots during more active phases
of the solar cycle. Visit today's edition of
for more information and updates.
Dateline - 26 January 2018 - A long-dead spacecraft wakes up:
In 2005, a NASA spacecraft named
IMAGE mysteriously went silent, abruptly ending a successful mission to
study Earth's magnetosphere. Thirteen years later, it's back. On January 20,
2018, an amateur astronomer in Canada picked up radio transmissions from
IMAGE, alive after all. The satellite may have been chattering away at
Earth for years unheard and unnoticed. Now NASA is working to regain contact
and possibly revive a key asset for space weather research and nowcasting.
Visit today's edition of
for the full story.
Dateline - 14 January 2018 - Geomagnetic storm in progress:
A G1-class geomagnetic storm is underway on January 14 as Earth enters a stream of fast-moving solar wind. G1-class storms are relatively minor and have little effect on satellites or global power grids. However, they can confuse migratory animals that navigate using magnetism at high latitudes and, moreover, may spark bright aurorae around the Arctic Circle. Visit Spaceweather for more information and updates.
Dateline - 11 January 2018 - Blue comet PanSTARRS:
Beyond the orbit of Mars, an unusual blue comet is approaching the Sun. Every time astronomers look at Comet PanSTARRS (C/2016 R2), it has a different appearance. Daily images show gaseous jets waving wildly around the comet's core and dusty clouds billowing down the comet's tail. This hyperactivity comes despite the fact that the comet is located in a region of space where deep cold and feeble sunlight usually discourage such volatility. What's happening? The comet's blue colour is a crucial clue. Find the answer on today's edition of
Dateline - 30 December 2017 - Views of the Earth from NASA spacecraft:
As we look back at 2017, see how cameras on NASA spacecraft have looked back at our home planet, treating us to intriguing and inspiring perspectives from various places in space. Watch the ScienceCast Video
Dateline - 17 December 2017 - Geomagnetic storm in progress:
A G1-class geomagnetic storm is underway on December
17 as Earth moves into a stream of solar wind. The gaseous material is
flowing faster than 600 km/s from a hole in the Sun's atmosphere. G1-class
storms are relatively minor and have little effect on power grids and
satellites. However, they can confuse migratory animals that navigate using
magnetism at high latitudes and, moreover, may spark bright aurorae around
the Arctic Circle. Tonight's nearly new Moon will provide a dark backdrop
for Northern Lights. Visit Spaceweather
for more information and updates.
Dateline - 11 December 2017 - A 'rock comet' is approaching Earth this weekend:
You've heard of comets. But have you ever heard of a
rock comet? They exist, and a big one is approaching Earth this
week. 3200 Phaethon will fly past our planet on Sunday, December 17, only 10
million kilometres away. Measuring some 5 km in diameter, it is large enough
for amateur astronomers to photograph through backyard telescopes. Moreover,
this strange object is the parent of the annual Geminid meteor shower, which
is also coming this week. Sky watchers can see dozens of Geminids per hour
on December 14 and 15 as gravelly bits of the rock comet disintegrate in
Earth's upper atmosphere. Visit today's edition of Spaceweather
to find out how to observe the Geminids and their progenitor in the nights
Dateline - 20 November 2017 - Interstellar asteroid "like nothing ever seen":
Last month, telescopes around the world rushed to
observe an asteroid from interstellar space as it raced through our Solar
System. Some of the data from those observations was published in today's
edition of Nature, and they reveal an object like no one has ever
seen before. The deep-space asteroid, named 'Oumuamua', is tinged dark red,
made of dense rock or metal, and shaped roughly like a giant cigar at least
400 metres long. Get the full story on today's edition of Spaceweather
Dateline - 17 November 2017 - Meteor explodes over the Arctic
On the evening of November 16, a meteoroid ripped
through the atmosphere over the Arctic Circle and exploded. The resulting
fireball wiped out the aurora borealis, cast shadows, and turned the night
sky blue. Visit Spaceweather
to see a movie of the explosion, captured accidentally by an automated
aurora skycam in northern Finland.
Dateline - 17 November 2017 - Incoming solar wind
Today, a hole in the Sun's atmosphere is facing Earth.
The emerging stream of solar wind could reach our planet as early as
November 19, with G1-class geomagnetic storms possible on November 20.
Dateline - 12 November 2017 - Venus - Jupiter conjunction
Set your alarm for dawn. On Tuesday morning, November
14, Venus and Jupiter will converge in the pre-dawn sky only 1/3rd of a
degree apart. Look low and to the east about 30 minutes before sunrise. If
you miss them on Tuesday, try again on Wednesday, November 15. The
conjunction will be breaking up, but still a beautiful sight. Visit Spaceweather
for sky maps and pictures.
Dateline - 23 October 2017 - Geomagnetic storms predicted (G2 class)
A large hole has opened in the Sun's atmosphere, and
it is discharging a stream of solar wind toward Earth. Estimated time of
arrival: October 25. First contact with the gaseous material is expected to
produce minor G1-class geomagnetic storms, intensifying to moderately strong
G2-class storms on October 26 as the Earth moves deeper into the stream.
Arctic sky watchers can expect to witness bright aurorae. The lights could
descend to lower latitudes as well, with sightings in northern-tier US
states along a line from Maine to Washington. Visit Spaceweather
for more information and updates.
Dateline - 20 October 2017 - Meteors from Halley's Comet
Earth is entering a stream of debris from Halley's
Comet, source of the annual Orionid meteor shower. Last night, NASA's
network of all-sky meteor cameras detected 23 Orionid fireballs over the USA
- a result of comet dust hitting the atmosphere at speeds exceeding 65 km/s
(145,000 mph). Forecasters expect the shower to peak on October
21-23 with as many as 25 meteors per hour. Visit Spaceweather
for observing tips and sky maps.
Dateline - 10 October 2017 - Asteroid to buzz Earth this week
Four years ago, a house-sized asteroid tore through
the atmosphere over Chelyabinsk, Russia, and exploded. Shock waves
shattered windows and knocked down onlookers as fragments of the
disintegrating space rock peppered the Ural countryside. This week an
asteroid about the same size is approaching Earth. It will not hit our
planet, but it's coming very close. On October 12, 2017, the speeding space
rock, named '2012 TC4', will skim just above the zone of Earth's
geosynchronous communications satellites and briefly become a target for
amateur telescopes. Learn more about the flyby on today's edition of
Dateline - 8 October 2017 - Damage caused by Hurricane Maria threatens the Arecibo Radio Telescope with closure
Until eclipsed by the Chinese FAST radio telescope last year, the 305 metre (1000 feet) Arecibo Radio Telescope on the island of Puerto Rico was the largest dish in the world, although at over 50 years old it was showing its age. Damage caused to the radio telescope by the hurricane, while not catastrophic, will take several million dollars to repair. The main problem is that a large portion of a 29-metre long antenna suspended at the focal point above the dish was torn loose and fell into the dish. Destruction of much infrastructure in Puerto Rico, including observatory buildings and residences, is a major problem. The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has had its funding slashed, and needs to divest itself of as many as ten observatories so that it can channel its reduced budget towards newer facilities. Concern has been expressed that the NSF may decide to write off the facility at Arecibo. News report .
Dateline - 4 October 2017 - Major aurora event on Mars
Last month, a human astronaut standing on the surface
of Mars could have seen something amazing. The night sky of the Red Planet
turned green in a global display of Northern Lights. Unfortunately, the same
astronaut would have been irradiated by high energy particles from the sun.
For three days in mid-September a solar storm enveloped Mars, crossing
thresholds of ground-level radiation and auroras that orbiters and rovers
had never seen before. Such global events on Mars may be more common than
previously thought - a topic explored on today's edition of
Dateline - 30 September 2017 - New Horizons' discoveries keep coming
The probe New Horizons, which so successfully imaged Pluto in a flyby in July 2015, is on its way to new discoveries deep in the Kuiper Belt – a region inhabited by ancient remnants from the dawn of the solar system. Watch NASA's ScienceCast Video
Dateline - 28 September 2017 - Strong geomagnetic storm
Knowing that a solar wind stream was heading for
Earth, forecasters predicted a geomagnetic storm last night. However, they
didn't predict it would be so strong, a G3-class event. During the peak of
this surprising space storm, Northern Lights spilled over the Canadian
border into more than half a dozen US states.
for pictures of the display and updates as the solar wind continues to blow.
Dateline - 21 September 2017 - Spacecraft buzzes Earth en route to asteroid
OSIRIS-REx will reach Bennu in August 2018 and will begin its survey of the asteroid in October of that year. A site for the collection of samples will be selected, and in July 2020 OSIRIS-REx will move into a position to gently touch the surface of Bennu with a robotic arm and sampler head called 'TAGSAM' (Touch-and-go Sample Acquisition Mechanism). The TAGSAM will approach the surface of Bennu at a speed of 10 centimetres per second. Contacting the surface of Bennu for a total of five seconds, the TAGSAM will release a burst of nitrogen gas, causing loose rocks and surface material to be stirred up and directed into a collector in the sampler head. It is hoped that at least 60 grams and possibly up to 2 kilograms of sample will be obtained. If needed, the spacecraft is capable of making up to three sampling attempts. After measuring the mass of the sample, the TAGSAM head will then be stowed in the Sample Return Capsule (SRC) for the journey home.
The window for departing Bennu opens in March 2021. At that time OSIRIS-REx will fire its main engines and leave Bennu with a speed of 1152 kph. This burn will place OSIRIS-REx on a trajectory that intersects the orbit of the Earth in September 2023. Four hours before reaching Earth's atmosphere, OSIRIS-REx will jettison the Sample Return Capsule (SRC), placing it on a trajectory to land on Earth. The spacecraft will then perform a deflection manoeuvre of 63 kph that places the spacecraft in a stable orbit around the Sun. The SRC will hit the top of our atmosphere with a speed of 44 658 kph. The heat shield will absorb over 99% of the initial kinetic energy. After entry the SRC will free fall until it reaches an altitude of 33.5 kilometres, when the drogue parachute will deploy. At an altitude of 3000 metres the main parachute will be released, bringing the capsule in for a soft landing in the Utah desert on September 24, 2023, concluding a seven year journey to Bennu and back.
Observing tips and more information are
contained in today's edition of
Dateline - 21 September 2017 - Hubble's contentious Constant
There are two leading ways to measure the universe's rate of expansion, and for fifteen years, they more or less agreed with one another. Not anymore, and that’s a big deal.
Dateline - 14 September 2017 - Solar wind produces geomagnetic storm
Earth is entering a stream of high-speed solar wind
flowing from a hole in the sun's atmosphere. First contact with the stream
on September 14 produced a moderately strong (G2-class) geomagnetic storm,
ongoing at the time of this alert. If the storm continues, high-latitude sky
watchers could see aurorae after local nightfall on September 14/15.
Visit today's edition of
for more information and updates.
Dateline - 12 September 2017 - Solar flare causes ground level radiation event
Sunday's powerful X8-class solar flare from departing
sunspot AR2673 accelerated a swarm of protons toward Earth, producing a
strong solar radiation storm and a 'ground level event' (GLE). High-energy
particles normally held at bay by Earth's atmosphere and magnetic field
penetrated all the way to the ground on September 10. A leading analyst of
GLEs says that radiation dose rates onboard commercial jets flying at high
latitudes may have briefly doubled during the episode. Learn more about GLEs
and what caused this solar flare to be so effective on today's edition of
Dateline - 10 September 2017 - Another X-class solar flare
Departing sunspot AR2673 erupted again on September 10
(2:06 am AEST September 11), producing a major X8-class solar flare. A
moderately strong solar radiation storm is underway as protons accelerated
by the blast swarm around our planet. Shortwave radio blackouts over the
Americas and around Earth's poles have also been observed in the aftermath
of the explosion. Visit today's edition of
for updates and more information.
Dateline - 8 September 2017 - Severe geomagnetic storm
The debris from this week's monster X9-class solar flare hit Earth's magnetic field last night. The result: Northern Lights in
the USA as far south as Arkansas. A severe (G4-class) geomagnetic storm
yesterday sparked aurorae so bright that in parts of Scandinavia, traffic
stopped as drivers pulled over to watch the display. More storms are in the offing tonight and tomorrow as Earth moves through the wake of this potent
CME. Visit today's edition of
for updates and aurora photos.
Dateline - 7 September 2017 - Geomagnetic storm warning
A CME has just hit Earth's magnetic field (September 8
at ~9 am AEST). This is the debris from Thursday's decade-class X9
solar flare. It arrived earlier than expected, confirming that the solar
storm cloud is both fast and potent. The CME appears to contain strong
south-pointing magnetic fields that typically do a good job of igniting
geomagnetic storms. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras
in bright moonlight. Visit today's edition of
for updates and more information about this developing event.
Dateline - 6 September 2017 - X-Class solar flare
On September 6, 2017, at 22:02 AEST, active sunspot
AR2673 unleashed an X9.3-class solar flare - the strongest solar flare in
more than a decade. The explosion also hurled a CME into space, and possibly
toward Earth. Analysis of the event is still underway. Visit today's
for updates and more information about the historical context of today's
Dateline - 3 September 2017 - Sunspot genesis
Two big sunspot groups are now facing Earth. Behemoth
AR2674 has been growing for days, while newcomer AR2673 has suddenly
quadrupled in size, with multiple dark cores breaching the surface of the
sun in just the past 24 hours. The rapid development of these regions could
herald Earth-directed flares in the days ahead. Visit today's edition of
for movies of sunspot genesis in action.
Dateline - 27 August 2017 - Astronomers unveil the most detailed map of the Milky Way to date
The map, based on observations from the European Space Agency’s Gaia probe, still only represents about 1% of the Milky Way’s stars, but is already 20 times more complete than any previous observations of the night sky. It lists the positions of more than one billion Milky Way stars with unprecedented precision. Click here for more. (Contributed by Tim.)
Dateline - 25 August 2017 - Solar eclipse in the stratosphere
You've seen pictures of the Great American Solar Eclipse from the ground, and maybe even from space. But what about from the stratosphere? On August 21, just as the Moon was about to pass in front of the sun, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus released a network of 11 spaceweather balloons from five states in the path of totality. More than 20 cameras were waiting in the stratosphere when the Moon's shadow arrived, and they captured some truly unique images. First-look photos are highlighted here .
Dateline - 17 August 2017 - Cassini's Grand Finale
The spacecraft Cassini is in the process of executing 22 daring ‘Grand Finale’ dives in the 2000-kilometre gap between Saturn and its innermost ring, concluding with an epic final plunge into the gas giant’s upper atmosphere. Watch the ScienceCast Video
Dateline - 11 August 2017 - Perseid fireballs
The Perseid meteor shower, which peaks this weekend
(August 12-13), produces more fireballs than any other known annual meteor
shower. (Fireballs are meteors brighter than Jupiter or Venus.) This
characteristic of the Perseids is important because in 2017 the shower peaks
under the light of a bright gibbous Moon. Perseid fireballs should be
visible in spite of lunar interference, producing a pleasing display for
anyone outdoors before sunrise on Saturday and Sunday. Visit today's edition
for observing tips.
Dateline - 28 July 2017 - Noctilucent clouds from space
NASA's AIM spacecraft is back in business.
Following a months-long interruption in normal operations, the
polar-orbiting satellite is beaming back new images of noctilucent clouds at
the edge of space. Data arriving now show a magnificent ring of
electric-blue surrounding Earth's north pole, confirming recent sightings
from the surface of our planet. Visit today's edition of
to learn more about these strange clouds and the status of AIM.
Dateline - 26 July 2017 - Space lightning over Hawaii
This week, automated cameras atop a dormant volcano in
Hawaii captured rare footage of Gigantic Jets leaping up from a powerful
thunderstorm. The strange-looking bolts reached toward the edge of space,
delivering a surge of electricity to the top of Earth's atmosphere. These
unusual forms of 'space lightning' could become more common in the years
ahead as declining solar activity allows more ionising cosmic rays to
penetrate Earth's atmosphere. Learn more on today's edition of
Dateline - 23 July 2017 - Massive explosion on the far side of the Sun
On July 23, NASA and European spacecraft observed a
massive explosion on the far side of the Sun. A spectacular CME tore through
the Sun's atmosphere and it now appears to be en route to Mars. Earth will
not feel the effects of the blast because of its location on the opposite
side of the sun. However, the source of the eruption, old sunspot AR2665,
will turn back toward our planet in early August, possibly bringing a new
round of geomagnetic storms and aurorae. Read all about it on today's
Dateline - 21 July 2017 - CME sweeps aside cosmic rays
On July 16, a CME hit Earth's magnetic field, sparking
two days of geomagnetic storms and beautiful aurorae. The solar storm cloud
also swept aside some of the cosmic rays currently surrounding our planet. A
sudden decrease in deep space radiation was detected by a global network of
neutron monitors as well as a space weather balloon in the stratosphere over
California. Almost a week later, cosmic rays are finally returning to
normal. Learn more about this event on today's edition of
Dateline - 16 July 2017 - CME strike sparks geomagnetic storms
Geomagnetic storms began on July 16 following a CME
strike at 3:45 pm AEST. Aurorae have been sighted in New Zealand and
Tasmania as well as US states such as Washington and Wyoming. G1-class
storms happening now could intensity to G2-class in the hours ahead as Earth
moves into the CME's magnetized wake. Visit
for images and updates.
Dateline - 14 July 2017 - Strong solar flare and coronal mass ejection
After days of suspenseful quiet, huge sunspot AR2665
finally erupted on July 14 (0209 UT), producing a powerful M2-class solar
flare. The explosion was underway for more than two hours and hurled a
bright coronal mass ejection (CME) toward Earth. Geomagnetic storms and
high-latitude aurorae are likely when the CME arrives this weekend. Visit
for images and updates.
Dateline - 9 July 2017 - Solar activity intensifies
Sunspot AR2665, which emerged just as few days ago,
has mushroomed into a behemoth nearly as wide as the planet Jupiter. On July
9 the fast-growing sunspot produced an M-class solar flare and a short-lived
shortwave radio blackout over east Asia and Australia. Stronger flares and
Earth-directed CMEs may be in the offing as AR2665 turns toward our planet
in the days ahead. Visit
for images, movies and updates.
Dateline - 4 July 2017 - Noctilucent Clouds over Europe
Nightfall is supposed to bring darkness. This week in
parts of Europe, nightfall has brought something different: an electric-blue
glow caused by clouds of water-frosted meteor smoke rippling over the
continent. These summertime 'noctilucent clouds' (NLCs) have been much
brighter than usual and even seem to be causing strange radio echoes north
of the Arctic Circle. The sudden intensification of NLCs could herald more
widespread sightings in Europe and North America in the nights ahead. Visit
for observing tips and more information.
Dateline - 15 May 2017 - Geomagnetic storm watch
NOAA forecasters say there is a 40% chance of minor G1-class geomagnetic storms on May 16-18 as Earth enters a stream of solar wind flowing from a hole in the sun's atmosphere. The storm could intensify to G2-class (moderately strong) on May 18 when an incoming CME is expected to deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras, especially in the southern hemisphere where deepening autumn darkness favours visibility. Visit Spaceweather for more information and updates.
Dateline - 2 May 2017 - Meteors from Halley's Comet
A radar in Canada has detected radio echoes coming
from the constellation Aquarius. This is a sign that the annual eta
Aquarid meteor shower is underway. In the days ahead our planet will
cross a network of debris streams from Halley's Comet, producing a drizzle
of eta Aquarids numbering 10 to 30 meteors per hour in the northern
hemisphere and perhaps twice that number in the southern hemisphere.
Usually, the eta Aquarid shower peaks around May 6. This year, there might
be an additional enhancement on May 4 and 5. Check today's edition of
for more information and observing tips.
Dateline - 23 April 2017 - Geomagnetic storms continue
Following on the heels of Saturday's unexpected CME impact, our planet is now moving into a stream of high speed (700 km/s) solar wind. This is re-energizing geomagnetic activity around Earth's poles. NOAA forecasters say there is an 80% chance of geomagnetic storms on April 24 subsiding to 'only' 60% to 65% on April 25 and 26. High-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras in the nights ahead. In the USA, Northern Lights might be seen and photographed in northern-tier states from Washington to Maine. Southern Lights are also being reported by observers in high-latitude regions of New Zealand. Visit Spaceweather for photos and updates.
Dateline - 22 April 2017 - Earth Day aurora storm
Last night, Northern Lights descended into the United
States as far south as Michigan, Minnesota, and Washington, kicking off an
unexpected display of bright auroras for Earth Day. What happened? A CME
that was supposed to miss Earth apparently hit instead, surprising
forecasters. Geomagnetic storms are still underway as April 22nd unfolds;
high-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for midnight auroras on April
Dateline - 22 April 2017 - Meteor Shower tonight
The aurorae tonight may be spiced by an occasional flash of light. Earth is entering a stream of debris from Comet Thatcher, source of the annual Lyrid meteor shower. Dark sky observers could see 10 to 20 shooting stars per hour shooting out of the constellation Lyra. Sky maps and observing tips are at Spaceweather.
Dateline - 19 April 2017 - Old Sunspot returns, explodes
Old sunspot AR2644 has returned following a two-week
trip around the back side of the sun, and it is still active. During the
late hours of April 18, the sunspot's magnetic canopy exploded, producing a
C5-class solar flare and hurling a spectacularly bright coronal mass
ejection (CME) into space. The massive cloud of hot plasma will almost
certainly miss Earth, but future explosions could be geoeffective as the
sunspot turns toward our planet. Visit
for more information and updates.
Dateline - 19 April 2017 - Chance of magnetic storms
NOAA forecasters estimate a 50% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on April 20 when a high-speed stream of solar wind is due to reach our planet. This could spark bright Northern Lights in the waxing spring twilight around the Arctic Circle. Monitor the Aurora Gallery on Spaceweather for sightings
Dateline - 2 April 2017 - The Sun wakes up
Suddenly, solar flare activity is high. Following months of quiet with negligible flares, new sunspot AR2644 unleashed a series of M-class explosions on April 1 and 2. Each blast produced a shortwave radio blackout over a different part of our planet. The powerful explosions also sent beams of radio energy toward Earth, causing roars of static to issue from the loudspeakers of some shortwave receivers. Listen to a sample audio file on today's edition of
Dateline - 1 April 2017 - Huge sunspot faces Earth
2017 has been a year of few sunspots. That makes AR2645 even more remarkable. In recent days, the young sunspot has grown rapidly into a behemoth more than 150 000 kilometres wide with a magnetic field that harbours energy for M-class (moderately strong) solar flares. Because it is directly facing Earth, any eruptions this weekend could partially ionise the top of our planet's atmosphere and alter the normal propagation of radio transmissions around the globe. Visit Spaceweather to view a movie of the growing sunspot
Dateline - 30 March 2017 - Comet flyby
Green comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak is flying over
Earth's North Pole this week where sky watchers can find it not far from the
bowl of the Big Dipper. At closest approach on April 1 it will be just 21
million kilometres from Earth - an easy target for backyard telescopes and
almost visible to the naked eye. It is currently too far north to be seen
from south-east Queensland. Visit
for more information and observing tips.
Dateline - 27 March 2017 - Geomagnetic storm underway
As predicted, a stream of solar wind enveloped Earth's magnetic field on March 27. First contact produced a moderately-strong G2-class geomagnetic storm, with bright aurorae around both poles and electrical ground currents detected in the Arctic. More storming is likely during the next 48 hours as Earth moves deeper into the stream and the solar wind pressure intensifies. Visit Spaceweather for current conditions and updates
Dateline - 21 March 2017 - Solar wind arrives early
Arriving a day earlier than expected, a stream of fast-moving solar wind is buffeting Earth's magnetic field today. The broad stream is expected to influence our planet for the next three days with a 60% chance of polar geomagnetic storms between now and March 23. Arctic sky watchers should be alert for aurorae in the waxing Spring twilight. Visit Spaceweather for more information and updates. information and u
Dateline - 19 March 2017 - Sunspot counts hit a 7-year low
The face of the Sun has been blank (no sunspots) for 13 consecutive days. The last time this happened was in April of 2010, near the end of an historically deep Solar Minimum. The current stretch of blank Suns heralds a new Solar Minimum expected to arrive in 2019-2020. What does this mean for us? Answers may be found on today's edition of Spaceweather .
Dateline - 19 March 2017 - Venus approaches inferior conjunction
This week, Venus will pass almost directly between Earth and the Sun - an event astronomers call 'inferior solar conjunction'. As it turns its night side to Earth, the planetary disc of Venus is transforming into an exquisitely slender crescent easily seen through small telescopes or binoculars. Visit Spaceweather for photos and observing tips.
Dateline - 4 March 2017 - "Aurora Sprites" sighted over New Zealand
For the past few days, Earth has been moving through a stream of solar wind gusting with speeds of 700+ km/sec. Last night in New Zealand, the stream produced an unusual display of "aurora sprites" above the Otago Peninsula. Visit Spaceweather to see the apparition and to learn what probably caused it.
Dateline - 1 March 2017 - Solar wind, geomagnetic storm
A G1-class polar geomagnetic storm is in progress on
March 1 as Earth enters a fast-moving stream of solar wind. This is
sparking bright auroras around the Arctic Circle. The solar wind is flowing
from a large canyon-shaped hole in the sun's atmosphere and is expected to
influence Earth for the next two days. Visit Spaceweather
for more information and updates.
Dateline - 27 February 2017 - Solar wind, incoming
A canyon-shaped hole in the Sun's atmosphere is
spewing a stream of solar wind toward Earth. Polar geomagnetic storms could
begin as early as February 28 when the leading edge of the stream reaches
our planet. NOAA forecasters estimate a 60% chance of G1-class storms on
March 1 when Earth is fully enveloped by the fast-moving solar wind. More
information is at Spaceweather
Dateline - 19 February 2017 - A gash in the Sun's atmosphere
An unusually wide and sinuous hole has opened in the
Sun's atmosphere, and it is stretching like a gash across the Sun's southern
hemisphere. A roughly fan-shaped stream of solar wind flowing from the hole
is gently buffeting Earth's magnetic field, and it could keep polar magnetic
fields in an unsettled state for the rest of February. Long range forecasts
suggest the month could end with a moderately strong (G2-class) geomagnetic
storm. This is all good news for Arctic sky watchers, who can expect regular
episodes of Northern Lights in the nights ahead. Visit today's edition of Spaceweather
for more information and sightings.
Dateline - 6 February 2017 - Green comet approaches Earth
This week, a small green comet named 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova
(45P for short) is approaching Earth for one of the closest comet
flybys of the Space Age. On the nights around February 11, Comet 45P
will be an easy target for binoculars and small telescopes, revealing itself
in eyepieces as an emerald coloured fuzzball. Visit today's edition of Spaceweather
for sky maps and to find out what makes this little comet so green.
Dateline - 25 January 2017 - Sunspot surprise
Barely visible only 24 hours ago, a new sunspot group
big enough to swallow Earth is bubbling up through the solar surface. So far
the active region poses no threat for strong solar flares, but this could
change if its rapid growth continues. Visit today's edition of Spaceweather
to view a movie of sunspot genesis, and to learn how this development fits
in with the recent 'crash' of the sunspot cycle.
Dateline - 20 January 2017 - Radiation Clouds at aviation altitudes
A new study published in the
peer-reviewed journal Space Weather reports the discovery of
radiation 'clouds' at aviation altitudes. When aeroplanes fly through these
clouds, dose rates of cosmic radiation normally absorbed by air travellers
can double or more. Get the full story on today's edition of Spaceweather
Dateline - 12 January 2017 - Sunspots vanish
So far this year, the sun has been
blank more than 90% of the time. Only one very tiny sunspot observed for a
few hours on January 3 interrupted a string of spotless days from New Year's
through to January 11. To find a similar sequence of blank suns, we have to
go back to May of 2010, almost seven years ago. What does this mean? Read
today's edition of Spaceweather
for the full story.