Astronomy news

Saturn's rings oscillate ... and more tales of salmon numbers

At November 1st .... images captured by the Cassini spacecraft and published in the Astronomical Journal (November) indicate the rings of Saturn behave in a similar way to the Milky Way galaxy - having an irregular and varying shape.

Water on the Moon and active Venus

NASA have released a couple of interesting stories at ... and in the first of these it is said Mars Rover Spirit became stuck last year in sand and the ground around it became a focus for a few days. It seemed to show evidence of recent water activity. In this instance, a film of the wet stuff. Possibly it was the result of frost or snow, according to an article in Journal of Geophysical Research (late 2007).

The Scutum

The Scutum is a constellation at the throbbing heart of the Milky Way. At Oct 27th Casey Kazan reports that at the core of the Milky Way there is a monster star cluster. This is Scutum and it includes among its numbers fourteen red supergiants and they emit great bursts of X-rays and gamma rays that according to a new theory are being created by dark matter. Yes, the dark stuff that is so difficult to detect.


At Oct 27th ... astronomers have discovered lots of buckyballs in space - small carbon spherules. The Spitzer Telescope has found them in association with dying stars (but see the blog of Nigel Calder who earlier in the year had a post on buckyballs).

Strange Supernovae, Water on the Moon, and an asteroid that struck Australia

The following three articles all come from one day at 26th October ... the first says robotic telescopes have turned attention to strange exploding stars that seem to indicate unusual physics. One supernova in particular cannot be explained by known mechanics or physics. Observation has been done by a variety of different telescopes and it seems it is devoid of oxygen and carbon but is rich in helium.

Comet Hartley - fast approaching meeting

At is a report on the space mission  scheduled to have a close encounter with Comet Hartley in November. However, even now observations indicate the comet is not behaving as it should do in respect of the consensus model of comet behaviour. It was seen to increase the release of cyanide fourfold over an 8 day period in September - without an increase in dust emissions. It is not known why this happened.

Solar Flares

At there is a post on a paper concerning solar flares - which are sudden releases of energy from the Sun. They are in some way connected to the magnetic field breaking and reconnecting - it is thought. The temperatures of solar flares can soar to millions of degrees as the particles accelerate - and much of the radiation is emitted as X-rays.

Asteroid Phaethon

Asteroid 3200 Phaethon sometimes acts just like a comet - it light up the night sky with meteor showers. However, most of the time it behaves like an asteroid - a piece of rock orbiting in space. University of Central Florida (see October 13th ... scientists have been doing a bit of telescope gazing and a spot of mathematical modelling and they think they have found significant similarities between it and another asteroid, a big one in the asteroid belt, orbiting between Mars and Jupiter. This one is known as Pallas.

Cosmic Strings are super massive ultra thin cracks in the universe?

Yes, and researchers at the University of Buffalo say they have found indirect proof of their existence. They studied 355 quasars - very bright galaxies with super massive black holes at their centre (said without batting an eye). Quasars emit massive jets of energy and 183 of such jets were seen to line up to form a pair of enormous rings in the sky, suggesting two massive circular structures actually exist - or did exist.

A Colliding Moon

BBC News October 6th ... Saturn's rings may have formed when a large moon with an icy mantle and rocky core spiralled into Saturn in a catastrophic encounter (many moons ago). The theory is an attempt to explain the mainly water ice composition of the rings, some 90 per cent or more. The rest is made of dust - from micro-meteoroids.