Astronomy news

Comet Halley Again

At there is another version of the Comet Halley appearance in 466BC - with a bit more history. It could have been visiting the inner solar system for anything between 16,000 and 200,000 years (see also the Journal of Cosmology). The Chinese record the comet in 240BC and it is thought the Babylonians (people of the Middle East) record it in 164 and 87BC (as well as Tigranes, an Armenian king) and in 12BC it may have sparked messianic expectations - but who can tell.

Comets in the Kuiper Belt

At ... is about some images from the Hubble Space Telescope which show two remote objects in the Solar System slowly moving across the sky in front of a distant galaxy. They were moving while Hubble was recording and they appear in the images as streaks of light and seem to be comet like objects orbiting the Sun some 40 odd times further away than the earth.

What are meteorites?

At there is a short piece that attempts to answer this question - by a science writer, photographer, and meteorite hunter who has contributed to documentaries made by PBS, National Geographic, the History Channel and the Travel Channel as well as Readers Digest, Rock and Gem, Sky and Telescope, Geotimes etc.

Comet Halley in the 5th century BC

At (see also BBC News September 10th) ... in 466BC a large meteortie, described as the size of a wagon load, fell in northern Greece.

Watch this video clip

SIS member Dr Peter Paget has provided this link to a video slide show of the sky - at


Life on Mars (?)

At we have a report that seems to suggest that NASAs Viking Mars Lander mission in 1976 may actually have examined soil that contained carbon based building blocks of life. Organics and perchlorate may have been present in the soil  although it is quite possible the organics had an origin in meteorites - and the ability of perchlorate to break down organic material was not realised at the time.

Water and Stars

At there is a report from ESA (the European Space Agency) that the Herschel infrared space observatory has discovered that ultraviolet starlight is a key ingredient for making water in the atmosphere of some stars. It is the only explanation, they continue, for why a dying star is surrounded by a gigantic cloud of hot water vapour (published in Nature September 2nd).

Near Earth Update - NASA report

This story from NASA (see September 2nd) has popped up all over the blogosphere, with various angles to the headlines. NASAs Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed  a lot of new information about near earth objects orbiting in near space - mainly asteroids, or defunct comets. However, the composition of these bodies turns out to be highly varied. Some are dark and dull and others shiny and bright (the Astronomical Journal September issue).

.. and a red comet ...

There is an image of a red comet at September 1st, being Comet Sidling Spring, which is named after the Australian observatory where it was first seen in 2007. It was visible in binoculars until January of this year (2010) and the post goes on to describe the idea of panspermia - the seeding of life by comets. Life on earth seems to have appeared soon after the termination of a massive bombardment event at around 3.8 billion years ago (so it is said).

... and after the diamonds we have red rain ...

At - an interesting post sent in by Gary Gilligan that moves seamlessly into juxtaposition  to the extraterrestrial impact debate - and red rain clearly has analogies with the Biblical Exodus event which was decyphered by Velikovsky as derived from a comet passing relatively close to the earth. The authors of the paper, Rajkumar Gangappa (University of Glamorgan), Chandra Wickramasinghe (Cardiff University), Milton Wainwright (Sheffield University), S.