Astronomy news

Chinese Science

Rachel Nuwer in Scientific American (July 2016) 'Solar Sleuths' - ancient documents record the Sun's activities prior to when the scientific record existed. The latter is of course Western-centric and only goes back to the late 17th/ early 18th century, a pin prick of time. The Chinese, Koreans and Japanese, have been recording goings on in the heavenly dimension for much longer, and jotting them down in a meticulous manner. It was not of course done for the sake of science.

Phobos and Deimos

At ... where did the two satellites of Mars come from, Phobos and Deimos. They were made famous by Velikovsky as the 'steeds of Mars' running before the planet as it supposedly passed close to the Earth. It has long been thought they are asteroids that have been captured by Mars at some point in its history. A paper in the July Astrophysical Journal rules out the capture hypothesis and plumps for a giant collision - read Worlds in Collision (but suitably dated in the very remote past). Was Velikovsky before his time?

Sky Tombs

At ... is archaeology with astronomy. It seems that archaeo-astronomers have been looking at megalithic tombs dating back as long ago as 4000BC and they have noticed that narrow entrance passages actually enhance what could be seen in the night sky. Their findings were reported at an astronomical convention at Nottingham Trent University in June (2016).

Jupiter One

At ... NASAs Juno spacecraft has crossed the magnetosphere of Jupiter. There will be lots of images and data beamed back in coming weeks but expect also some studies of the transition between space dominated by the solar wind and space inside Jupiter's magnetosphere. The boundary of the two regions is being described as 'unexpectedly complex' - which means it doesn't fit in with mainstream expectations.

stellar fireworks

At ... we have a new kind of 'clandestine' black hole. Basically, what has been detected is a source of radio noise

At ... a new method to identify black holes - but involves simulation

At ... Hubble detects stellar fireworks


We haven't heard much lately about the Japanese Hayabasa probe which had the mission to rendevous with asteroid Itokawa back in 2005. It studied various factors of the asteroid and collected samples duly brought back to Earth. The smaples consist of very small grains, microscopic in size, but a lot has been hypthesized from them. It seems they have different patterns on the surface which have been divided into different causes or reasons for their presence. Crystallisation by extreme heat, evidence of impact shatter, and exposure to the solar wind.

sodium carbonate

At ... we learn that recent hyperthermal activity may explain the bright spots on the asteroid Ceres. This is interesting in as much as it might not weigh against Ceres being an inactive comet (or a former comet but now an asteroid). Having the ability to outgas is a feature of comets - but there the resemblance may end as thermal activity seems to have produced sodium carbonate (the white stuff that the spot is made from).

Expanding Pluto

We have an expanding universe, the possibility of an expanding earth, and expanding planets in deep space - and now we have the possibility that Pluto is expanding. That sounds a bit crazy as it is not all that big - but scientists have noticed signs of stress on Pluto's surface that might mean there is internal pressure cracking the crust as a result of expansion. At ...

Measuring a black hole

The black hole concerned in this instance is at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy, our very own. At ... we are told that at the heart of the Milky Way there is a supermassive black hole - which is quiet. However, it is faint - probably because it is not accreting material, unlike some way out in the universe which have been captured on modern telescopes. It is also faint, we are told, because it is shrouded in dust and clouds of gas.

sugary meteorites

Sugars in meteorites - go to ... a paper published in PNAS (June 2016) has been looking at carbonaceous meteorites - so called chemical time capsules. It is assumed they formed at the beginning of the universe (following Big Bang). Researchers from NASA have analysed sugar acids and sugar alcahols in meteorites. The paper describes the research and its conclusions