Astronomy news

Patterns on Venus

At https://phys.org/print466332404.html ... a Japanese research team has identified a giant streak structure amongst the clouds covering Venus. They aqlso modelled the origins of the feature. The Japanese spacecraft Akatsuki has been orbiting Venus since 2015. It carries an infra red camera that captures coud morphology - even at lower cloud levels.

Flying Bye Bye

On January 8th asteroid 2019AS5 flew past the Earth - just 8600km above the surface. Nine hours afterwards, the asteroid was discovered, by the Mount Lemmon Survey telescope in Arizona. At http://spaceweather.com (11th January 2019) we learn the space rock was just 2m wide - hardly what one might call an asteroid. More like a meteor. Indeed, if it had entered the atmosphere it would have disintegrated somewhat like the Chelyabinsk meteor of 2013. What is more interesting is that astronomers are thinking that Earth's gravity significantly bent the space rock's orbit during fly by.

Universe Growing in Leaps

At https://astrobites.org/2019/01/02/growing-once-growing-twice-or-three-times ... an open access article at the arXiv portal has an interesting contribution. It suggests the universe has undergone more than one phases of accelerated expansion. The first, of course, coincided with Big Bang, and right now we have another dose of expansion - or that is the gist of the theory. We are told that it was realised back in the 1990s that the universe was expanding - and it now increasing at an increased rate. Or that is the interpretation of the red shift phenomenon.

4 Billion miles away

The flyby by New Horizons, zooming past Ultima Thule, has got a lot of people excited, and on the same day we have the Chinese landing a spacecraft on the dark side of the Moon. At https://phys.org/print465644260.html ... we are told Ultima Thule looks like a brick red snowman. The first pictures are filtering back to Earth from New Horizons and NASA scientists are keen to get across mainstream theory - too impatient to wait for further images. The smaller part of the object is 9 miles wide (the snowman's head) and the bigger part is 12 miles across (the snowman's body).

Ultima Thule

At http://spaceweather.com (22nd December 2018) as NASAs spacecraft New Horizons approaches Ultima Thule - flying past it on New Year;s Day, a mystery has developed. It seems to have no light curve. Its brightness is constant ...

    ... it may be that Ultima Thule is surrounded by a cloud of dust that obscures its light curve. We shall have to wait and see as New Horizons gets closer.

Lopsided Uranus

At https://phys.org/print464621303.html ... a big space crash likely made Uranus lopsided according to Durham University computer simulation. Uranus is a very big planet so we can imagine a very big object slammed into it. It is tilted 90 degrees on its side. Its magnetic field is also tilted and its five large moons. What caused it to flip over? Here we are into guesswork territory.

At https://phys.org/print464584616.html ... a stellar corpse is the subject, likened to the Butterfly nebula ....

Voyager News

Robert sent in the links https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-6479655/Nasas-Voyager-2-... ... and https://astronomynow.com/2018/12/10/voyager-2-leaves-the-suns-influence-... ... and https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-s-voyager-2-probe-enters-interst... .... Voyager 2 is now officially outside the Earth's magnetic bubble and within interstellar space - although it has yet to pass through the Oort Cloud. It was announced at the American Geophysical Union conference on December 9th (2018).

Dark Matter and Dark Energy

At https://phys.org/print463198725.html ... a new study unifies dark matter and dark energy into a single phenomenon, a fluid which they say possesses negative mass. If you were to push a negative mass it would accelerate towards you, we are told. Currently, cosmology does not integrate negative mass into the mainstream model of the universe so this is a distinct departure, it would seem. In addition, the current model of the universe tells us nothing about what dark matter and dark energy are like physically.

Measuring the Universe

At https://phys.org/print463140043.html ... a study led by Texas University has shown supersoft X-ray emissions in space can originate from accretion as well as nuclear fusion - or that is the headline of the press release. For many years astronomers were unware of this and have been using a certain type of supernova to measure the expansion of the universe. If this study is right they have been barking up the wrong tree - the squirrel has leaped elsewhere.

Radio Bursts

One of the most baffling puzzles of astrophysics are radio bursts. They are extremely bright flashes of light with radio wavelengths - but last just milliseconds. See https://phys.org/print462533952.html ... where it is revealed that scientists know very little about them. Dozens of theories have been proposed but none are set in stone, it would seem, but you would not know this without being told. What they are going to do is create a catalogue of the versions and then mark them up by the pros and cons. Other scientists are able to weigh in on the subject.