Astronomy news

On the Pulse

Are pulsars giant permanent magnets? is the question being asked at with an image of a jet of plasma being ejected from on of its rotational poles - described as radiation. When the beams of material (radiation or plasma) are aligned towards the Earth instruments detect a pulse, hence what is otherwise known as a Neutron star is known as a Pulsar star. How do the magnetic fields of pulsars form and behave? It seems a new theory is suggesting pulsars are permanent magnets and surprisingly stable.

Dark Matter - fact or fiction

The science of dark matter - or the theory that such a thing as dark matter is a real life fact is in the news - see Is anybody getting close to finding out what it is? The pieces then goes on to say dark matter is invoked to balance the mathematics - within a set of formulae which are already straining credibility by telling us 96 per cent of the universe is invisible and undetectable. However, dark matter also explains galaxies and galaxy clusters, it is thought.

Pock marked Mercury

At we learn that NASAs Messenger spacecraft has discovered strange hollows on the surface of Mercury - at a variety of latitudes and longitudes. They range in size from 60 feet wide to over a mile across. As there is no atmosphere, as such, on Mercury, they could not have been moulded by wind or rain - so the thinking goes. So what carved the holes from the rocky crust that are up to 120 feet deep?

A comet broke up in the 19th century - very close to the earth?

Two Mexican astronomers have uploaded a paper onto the prepress server arXiv concerning objects passing in front of the Sun in 1883, surrounded by a hazy mist. They think it was fragments of a comet that must have come apart very near the Earth. At the time, photographs of the object were explained away as bugs on the camera lens, casting aspersions on the astronomer that presented his findings to the French astronomical association.

The Flat Universe?

At ... it seems that in recent years cosmologists have discovered the universe is flat - or purportedly so. This is in spite of its apparent accelerating expansion. Why should it expand flatly? Why would the Big Bang be wholly one dimensional - why not spray outwards? The blame is being put on dark energy.

Dawn Update

NASA has released further information about its DAWN mission to the asteroid Vesta - see Vesta's surface has striking diversity in its composition, the spokesman is quoted as saying, particularly around craters. DAWN is now orbiting 420 miles above Vesta and is sending back images of high altitude mapping data (see also videos at

Megalithic Star Watching

It seems cosmic alignments are still in vogue in Germany. They have not been stifled in the same manner as in the UK - or so it would seem. At we are told there is a huge early Celtic calendar construction within the royal tombs of Magdalenenberg in the Black Forest. The order of the burials around the central royal tombs fits exactly, according to a computer simulation,  with the constellations as seen in the sky above Germany.

Comets and the Sun

The old idea that water from comets replenished the water on Earth has had a bit of a revival after NASA scientists discovered a comet with an origin in the Kuiper Belt that had water of a similar composition to water in our oceans.

However, at there is a video that is far more interesting, and comes from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory that witnessed a comet hitting the Sun on October 1st. Shortly afterwards there was a huge CME - or solar flare - but on the opposite side of the Sun. Are the two events connected?

Mars, Mercury and NEOs

The Messenger spacecraft orbiting Mercury has provided a raft of information - see - from flood volcanism,  crater like depressions, measurements of chemical composition, and lastly, observations of its magnetic field. A series of papers based on Messenger data have been published in Science, Sept 30th 2011.

An exoplanet that gobbles the light but glows in the dark ... and freshwater springs feed the Dead Sea

Yes, at astronomers at Princetown University and the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics have found a distant exoplanet that absorbs 99.9 per cent of the light that strikes it - why? The planet is non-reflective, it seems, high in hydrogen and helium. It is thought to be a hot planet, however, in spite of being very dark and very alone, as it glows 'thermally' - or that is the explanation. The little light it emits, the glow, is compared to a burner on an electric stove.