Astronomy news

Planet Nine

Planet Nine is in the news again - a new paper in the Astrophysical Journal by Kenyon and Bradley (see that uses computer simulation to winkle out plausible scenarios. The presence of Planet Nine is yet to be determined but it does not stop people playing around on their computers. The most likely explanatiohn, it seems, is that it formed a great distance away but was nudged by a 'passing star' and captured by the solar system, albeit on the outer side of the solar system (if it exists that is).

water and Mars

At ... dark lines on slopes on Mars are created by water, it is claimed (very hot water).

At ... NASA research (via observation and simulation) has been looking at swirling patterns of dark and light on the lunar surface. It seems they may be due to the magnetic field as a result of interaction with the solar wind.

At ... oxygen and the universe. It is an important constituent of star making clouds of dust but it seems there is less of it than expected

Space Weather

At (May 2nd 2016) - mysterious magnetic fields spar aurorae. For three days Earth has been moving through a region of space filled with negative polarity magnetic fields. This has caused geomagnetic storms

We also have sprites over the Caribbean (as seen from Texas) at the same web site. This is upper atmosphere lightning - going upwards (or connecting the ionosphere with the surface)

a rocky comet

At ... a paper due out in May's Science Advances (2016) is set to claim C/2014 S3 PANSTARRS is an ancient rocky body - much like an asteroid. Comets are supposed to be icy conglomerates so is this really a comet or is it an asteroid behaving like a comet?

super flares

At ... refers to an article in April's Nature Communications (2016) and the possibility the Sun can produce super flares - one hundred times bigger than the Cinningham event in 1859.

See a video of the recent solar flare in action caught on video at ... a video of a big sun spot facing the Earth (from last week)

Einstein, lightning, and Mars

At ... does lightning on other planets send radio signals to Earth? In this instance, radio signals from exo-planets.

At ... Einstein's theory of general relativity is being put to the test by a newly launched satellite in a French experiment. In space it is possible to study the relative motion of two bodies in almost perfect and permanent free fall aboard an orbiting satellite - or that is the theory.

At ... new images of the surface of Mars

Venus at the Poles

At ... ESAs Venus Explorer sent back data just prior to plummeting down through its atmosphere. At the poles Venus is much colder that anywhere on Earth. Low altitude tests were carried out during the final months of the mission, taking the spacecraft deep enough to experience drag from the atmosphere. The spacecraft experienced deceleration as it probed into what was the layers of the upper atmosphere.

At ... new images of craters on Ceres

alien dust

At ... NASAs Cassini spacecraft has detected a first signal of dust coming from beyond our solar system it is alleged, according to research published in the journal Science (April 2016). Cassini has been in orbit around Saturn since 2004 and it has sampled ice rich dust grains mostly coming from active jets that  spray from the surface of the moon Enceladus. However, among these grains are some that stand out as being different, and scientists are assuming they came from interstellar space.

binary star oddity

At ... a binary star moving very fast, at hypervelocity, seems to have caused a bit of a problem. It is part of the consensus view that hypervelocity binary stars are propelled by the energy of black holes - and here is the rub. Black holes are thought to occupy the centre of galaxies. As this particular binary star is moving at hypervelocity in our own galaxy it can clearly be seen that it is not on a projectory anywhere near the centre of our galaxy.

What a Whopper

   At - April 11th ... The solar minimum is looking less likely with the emergence of a big sun spot, doubling in size over the weekend.