Astronomy news

Tang Astronomy

At ... further to the recent post on a comet recorded by astronomers during the 8th century AD the link describes the cosmic world view of the Tang emperors. No mention of comets but it is clear they would have been watching and recording very carefully.


At ... the newly reactivated NEOWISE space telescope mission has been up and running for 25 days. In that time it has detected 857 minor bodies in the solar system, 22 of which are on a Near Earth course. Three of these are completely new discoveries - hundreds of metres wide and as black as coal.

Some 10,500 Near Earth objects have been found to date - but only ten per cent of them have actually been measured. It is hoped NEOWISE will provide such a service.

Water gushing out of a giant asteroid

SIS member Robert Farrar sent a link to ... which is about a giant asteroid described as a dwarf planet, namely Ceres, gushing water vapour from two points on its surface - see

In other words, exhibiting characteristics more commonly associated with comets. If it is true of dwarf planets - what about planets themselves? and Venus?

Earth's hidey dance with some interesting neighbours

I suppose this gives us some idea of resonant orbits - or why we are not being constantly bombarded by objects and debris from elsewhere in the solar system. The theory here is that it involves Fibonacci numbers. At ... is a post by somebody calling himself Oldbrew. Perhaps he is a real ale enthusiast but the subject has nothing to do with beer and all to do with a couple of Apollo asteroids - two of several dozen.

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.