Astronomy news

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 http://news.ucf.edu/UCFnews/ 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.

WISE update, an aurorae update, and turbulence in the solar wind

At www.jpl/nasa.gov/news/ October 5th (see also Science Daily and www.physorg.com/print205433228.html ) ... as the WISE mission approaches the end of its life NASA announces that so far it has discovered 19 comets, 33,500 asteroids, and 120 Near Earth Objects. NEOWISE will extend the mission for a while longer but will concentrate on the brown dwarfs and other little known cosmic bodies.

The Great Attractor

Casey Kazan at www.dailygalaxy.com October 5th has a longish post. A huge volume of space that includes the Milky Way and super clusters of galaxies is flowing towards a mysterious gigantic unseen mass that astronomers call the Great Attractor. However, they cannot pinpoint exactly what or where it is.

The Heoliosphere

This is a story that has popped up in a variety of media sources and on the blogosphere - including Science Daily. This version of the story is at www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-cosmic-rays-20101001,0,454358,print,stp the web site of the Los Angeles Times, and concerns the IBEX satellite orbiting the Earth in order to study the solar system heliosphere, the invisible bubble that exists beyond the planets.

Mars and Venus

At www.thunderbolts.info we have on Sept 24th 'More Martian Enigmas'  which concerns, among other things, those strange hematite spherules nicknamed blueberries by some wag at NASA who likes his muffins with the wrinkled variety. They were discovered by the Mars Exploration Rovers and have yet to be explained. There are also 'vast fields of iron oxide dust' gathered into dune like shapes that lie of top of quartzite slabs of rock - or more practically, on top of the surface.

Saturn, Venus, and the Sun

At www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2010-313&cid=release_2010-313 for a NASA story, images, and a video clip of Saturn's shimmering aurora over a two day period (www.nasa.gov/cassini and http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov )

Phobus

At www.dailygalaxy.com September 22nd ... (see also www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11378762?print=true ) scientists claim to have found firm evidence that the biggest moon of Mars, Phobus, is made from rock blasted off the surface of Mars in a catastrophic event - something like worlds in collision! The evidence comes from ESAs Mars Express spacecraft and appears to discount the old theory the moons of Mars are captured asteroids.

Aurorae

At www.physorg.com/print204231105.html ... we are told the Canadian Space Agency have launched an online observatory streaming the aurora borealis live over the internet, at www.asc-csa.gc.ca/auroramax No need to visit Santa Klaus in Lappland - just switch on your computer. The website will also explain the science behind the phenomenon and has an image gallery with photographs and videos from earlier sightings.