Astronomy news

Moon and Earth

At ... a paper by Robert Newton that was presented to the AAAS Symposium on 28th December 1971 has turned up on a Russian web site. They are interested in this sort of thing. In the west, CAGW and its spin-offs seems to dominate all science chat and research. Robert Newton also wrote a couple of important books - one at least was reviewed in SIS Review (by Laurence Dixon), quite recently.

Black Hole Feast - still waiting

At ... astronomers are looking forwards to a collision at the heart of our galaxy. Mind you, it was supposed to have happened last year - but is now moved to a date near you, in three months or so time. The NASA Swift telescope, in orbit, is taking display images of a gas cloud spiralling toward the black hole thought to reside in the centre of the Milky Way. The gas cloud was discovered by astronomers in Germany in 2011 and has been monitored ever since.

Brown Dwarfs ... stars or planets

At ... a cosmic body orbiting a star about 440 light years away is causing astrophysicists a bit of a knotty problem. What is the difference between a failed star (a Brown Dwarf) and a planet. They have been observing and keeping track of the object over the last seven years but can't yet determine which of either it is. The paper, in Astrophysical Journal Letters (published this week) can also be viewed at

Brian Cox and raining glass

Brian Cox, on BBCs 'Stargazing Live' (9th January 2014), made a remark about recently discovered exoplanets where they believe it 'rains silica' (or raining glass according to some reports). The interesting thing here is that flint is made of silica and flint and related silica deposits are common on Earth. In the 19th century flints were collected from chalk pits and transported to London as an ingredient in the glass industry. Glass manufacture also involves sand - a form of silica.

Brown Dwarfs raining molten iron and sand

A different perspective on Brown Dwarfs can be viewed at ... violent storms and molten iron rain 'may' be a common occurrence on 'failed' stars known as brown dwarfs, according to research from a news conference at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society. They say Brown Dwarfs are cool, star like objects that don't have enough mass to fuse hydorgen into helium, the main energy source for stars, they allege. They are, in effect, giant cousins of gas planets such as Jupiter and Saturn.

A Space Plane, a Space bang, and a Space surprise

The surprise is that an asteroid entered Earth's atmosphere on January 1st and appears to have broken up over the mid Atlantic, not too far from Brazil. However, it was just 6 to 9 feet across, which is smaller than last year's Russian meteor - see

At ... we have news of a space plane that is being developed, presumably to succeed the Space Shuttle. Apparently, it orbited the planet for seven months in 2010 - unmanned.

The Zodiacal Light in history

Mark Bailey (Armagh Observatory) in 'Sources and Populations of Near Earth Objects: Recent Findings and Historical Implications' which was published in the Proceeding of the SIS Second Cambridge Conference, made the following observation - 'so far as the Milky Way is concerned, it is interesting to note that early Greek sources describe 'stars' as lying below the Sun and Moon (Anadimander, Leucippus), call the Milky Way the former path of the Sun (metrodorus) and describe the Milky Way's location in the sky 'in the Earth's shadow' (Anaxagorus, De


At ... the Quadrantids meteor shower is due in January - from the 1st to the 10th. The parent source is unknown - probably an extinct comet. This brings us round to Comet ISON, recently done to death on its orbit around the Sun. The remains of ISON could be in the vicinity of Earth in the second week of January. Comet ISON had a train of material flowing out from behind it that stretched thousands of miles - and it is this dust and debris that will become a meteor shower. What is left of the nucleus will remain a long way away - it is thought.

Noctilucent clouds and meteor smoke

We have a couple of interesting posts on noctilucent clouds at the South Pole.