Astronomy news

Orbital Evolution

At ... an interesting link after Bob Johnson's talk at the SIS Spring Meeting on 29th April. The orbits of the planets are affected by two uniformitarian acceptable processes - one developed by Einstein, and the other, by Newtonian theory of gravity. In the latter an orbit becomes narrower over time, more and more elliptical, moving the object closer to the Sun at it's furthest point. The other concerns the periodic shift of the orbit of Mercury which is part of general relativity.

Screaming Clouds

At (see also ) ... we have a post on Norwegian painter Edvard Munch, and a new interpretation of what it was he actually painted on his canvas. He has posed a mystery to the art world - and made it worse by what he said at the time (which is quoted at the link). Subsequently, various theories have been aired - what was it all about? He depicted a sky filled with blood like clouds and spoke about it feeling like the whole of nature was screaming.

Sun's magnetic field

At ... (and see also ) which informs us that new data from the Cassini mission and beamed back by Voyager spacecraft and NASAs Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX). This indicates the Sun and the solar system are surrounded by a giant 'round' magnetic field. This new discovery calls into question the rpevious view of the solar magnetic field trailing behind the Sun with an elongated, comet like, tail. 

Close Approach Comets

Laurence sent in the link ... which has a video of the close approach of comets. However, we also learn that in 2017 and 2018 there will be two comets that come fairly close to Earth, one at 30 lunar distances, and the other, a bit further out. One close approach has already passed us by - that of comet 41P. We have 45P later this year and 46P in December of 2018 (otherwise known as Comet Wirtanen).


At ... we have a nice piece on nice smooth planetary migrations. We learn that Neptune moved from 20AU to its current location at 30AU in a very slow and calm movement. The heavily populated mean-motion resonances in the Kuiper Belt strongly suggests that the orbits of the planets have migrated. This is the so called Nice Model. It proposes the migration of planets from an initial configuration long after the dissipation of the proto planetary gas disk.


At (April 12th 2017) Comet PanSTARRS has become highly active. Last week the comet brightened six fold- now amateur astronomers are photographing an incredible tail (see below) ...12th 2017) Comet PanSTARRS has become highly active. Last week the comet brightened six fold- now amateur astronomers are photographing an incredible tail (see below) ...

Mars and Trojans

At ... sent in by William, an unusual story concerning the orbit of Mars and some mini planets (known as Trojans). These are really asteroids and they all share a common ancestry we are told in what had once been a single body. In other words they are the remains of a mini planet - rather than a succession of mini planets in themselves. Their origin is millions, if not billions, of years ago - we are also told. The reason they have been targeted as all belonging to a single cosmic object is their make -up, displaying heavy signs of olivine.

Cosmic Explosion

A mystery cosmic explosion has been picked up by NASAs Chandra X-ray Observatory - see ... the cause is thought to be a destructive event - but it's all guesswork at the moment.

Jovan sent in the link ... with proof of liquid water in the farthest reaches of the solar system it's clear the habitable zone isn't the only place where life might exist. A whole range of possibilities has opened up.

Warm Weather

At March 30th 2017 ... we are told the stream of solar wind, a CME event, has continued into a 4th day and we may note the weather has got considerably warmer over that time. I got sun burnt today (on the face) working on the allotment - yet it is still March (and it was decidedly cold a week ago). It seems the CME has pumped a lot of heat and energy into the earth system. A similar thing happened in March a couple of years ago - following another coronal hole directly facing the earth.

Wrong Way Orbit

At ... an asteroid orbiting the 'wrong way' around the Sun has been risking a collision it would seem, but somehow they always miss each other (or that is what we are being told as the asteroid has just got to be millions of years of age). The asteroid has a retrograde orbit around the sun and shares its orbital space with Jupiter - a rather large object to repeatedly miss. It emerges that Halley's Comet also has a retrograde orbit. Is does this imply it is a chip off the old block?