Astronomy news

Massive Comet Break-up and NASA on Solar Max

The ESA and NASA mission SOHO (Solar and Heliospheric Observatory) has found its 2000th comet (see SOHO was designed to monitor the Sun and was launched as long ago as 1995. It is the dozens of amateur astronomers that daily pore over the fuzzy lights moving across the images produced by the camera onboard the satellite that has actually found the comets. At the moment there are around 70 people from 18 different countries taking part.

A comet coming back into life?

At ... an asteroid with an orbit within, or crossing, the main asteroid belt, appears to be showing signs of revived life - leading to speculation that it might be a quiescent comet. The Catalonia Sky Survey Telescope was aimed on the asteroid belt when it came across a faint wispy tail surrounding a bright star like core. It was an asteroid known as Scheila, discovered over a hundred years ago.

Cosmic Microwave Background - what is going on?

A post at December 20th has the title, 'Epic Discovery Update: We are One of Many Universes', a story taken from a paper available at arXiv:1012.1995v1 on The Physics arXiv Blog, which purports to show four circular patterns in the cosmic microwave background. The authors suggest they are 'bruises' that occurred when our universe was expanding and bumped up against four other universes.


At we have a video clip and a story on a sunspot eruption way back in August (see also december 14th). What prompted the post was a paper just published in the Journal of Geophysical Research on the electro-magnetic significance of the eruption.

The Sleeping Beast at the heart of the galaxy ... and dark matter galaxies?

At December 7th there are a couple of further baiting posts to stir up conventional thinking. A super massive black hole is thought to lie at the centre of our galaxy - known as Sagittaurus A. Yet, it is quiet - in spite of the size. The energy radiated from around its edges is also very quiet in comparison to black holes that are thought to lie elsewhere in the universe. It is the energy that delineates a black hole, in most cases - but this one is very quiet.

The Gemenids

At ... the Gemenid annual meteor showers peaks on December 13th and 14th and is quite intense. It lasts for days, is rich in fireballs, and can be seen around the world. Most meteor showers come from comets but the parent body of the Gemenids is a small rocky asteroid - with the tag, '3200 Phaethon'.

A Jupiter sized dark object lurking at the edge of the solar system ... and trillions of potential earths

These two stories come from December 7th ... and one begins by claiming comet data over the last hundred years suggests there is a dark Jupiter sized object lurking at the edge of the solar sysem - and it may be hurling ice and dust chunks towards the earth. Planetary scientist John Matese thinks there is a hidden companion to the Sun in the Oort Cloud that is responsible for the trajectories of comets.

Flickering flares

At ... astronomers have been looking at the waxing and waning light of exploding stars and have seen patterns that aren't yet accounted for within the consensus view. The paper was published in The Astrophysical Journal and the instrument used in the study was the Solar Mass Ejection Imager in California.

Comet Hartley2

The NASA web site had a collection of images as Deep Impact approached Comet Hartley2 and locked its cameras onto the comet nuclei. At there is a short piece written in the lead up to the encounter between spacecraft and comet. When it was some 12 million miles from earth Comet Hartley2 NASA meteorite experts claimed debris interacted with the atmosphere of the earth as there was a shower of fireballs on November 2nd and 3rd.

Venus - new discovery

The European Space Agency (see and see also ) has discovered a high altitude layer of sulphur dioxide via the Venus Express spacecraft. Venus is blanketed in sulphuric acid clouds that block a view of the surface and this is because of volcanic activity there.