Astronomy news

More info on Mercury

At (see earlier post a few days ago). This blog post is derived from information from the Carnegie Institute and it expands a little on what the Messenger spacecraft has found out about the magnetosphere of Mercury. The Mariner 10 fly by in 1974 witnessed a burst of highly energetic particles in the magnetosphere but nothing as powerful as that has been seen by the Messenger during its 3 fly bys so far. However, bursts of energetic electrons have been seen - which were not as energetic.

Upstairs ...

It seems that elliptical galaxies are not spherical as once thought but disc shaped and resemble spiral galaxies. This result came from Atlas 3D and was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (in June) (see

Odd Mercury

Mercury isn't a bit like it was supposed to be. NASAs Messenger spacecraft shows craters on the planet that are deep and cold enought to hold frozen water - but Mercury is the rock closest to the Sun. Images of other regions indicate large eruptions have taken place - which somehow they can date to 3.7 billion years ago. When journalists or press releases express these numbers with such certainty one can't help being amused - but then again someone must have fed them the information. Craters are in fact thought to be buried beneath the lava - or basalt floor of the planet.

Comet Hartley2 - provisional diagnosis

NASA has released preliminary information on its Deep Impact mission of November 2010 when a spacecraft flew near Comet Hartley2. It is a small cosmic body with a six and a half year orbit around the Sun and appears to eject huge amounts of dust and gas. Most of this activity, they say, is confined to one part of the comet - which they describe as a large halo of fluffy, icy grains. Chandra detected x-ray emissions - due to the impact of atoms in the solar wind with molecular gas surrounding the comet.

The star eaten by a black hole

This story is at is actually what was drawn from the appearance of a bright flash of light observed on March 25th by a camera on a satellite. The news report has the title, 'black hole eats star, producing bright gamma-ray flash'. However, in the next sentence we are led to understand it is an hypothesis to explain the bright flash of light - and a black hole has not actually been seen but merely intimated by what is thought might cause such a bright flash of light.

The outer reaches of the solar system

At ... NASAs two Voyager spacecraft are nearing the edge of the solar system, and surprise, the models scientists had developed of the solar sheaf do not appear to be quite right. Voyager is beaming back information that is being analysed - and modelled. From this it has been deduced that the spacecraft have entered a strange foamy zone of large cosmic bubbles, some of them - 100 million miles across.

Jupiter - when young and sprightly

At ... NASA has a new model, as in a computer simulation, of how the early solar system may have formed in which the orbit of Jupiter once migrated towards the Sun and back outward again. It is likened to the course of a sailing boat when it tacks around a bhoy.

A stellar puzzle

This story is at ... the Kepler spacecraft has found a mystery - described as a treasury of wonders, even a freak show of oddball stars. The primary mission of Kepler is to look for planets orbiting around stars - that may have life. So far it has found 1200 planets, betrayed by small repetitive dips in the brightness of parent stars as the shadow of a planet crossing a star's face.

Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer

A new instrument was installed on the International Space Station (see ) designed to sift and detect cosmic rays to discover how they originate and how they effect matter. Do they come from exploding stars - supernovae? Are they part of anti-matter?

Explore the Moon

NASA has created an interactive web based tool that incorporates observations from the past and present lunar missions that can be used to explore the surface of the Moon. Anyone with an Internet connection will be able to search and analyse a large number of lunar images etc. In particular, information from the Lunar Renaissance Orbiter satellite which is still whizzing around the moon will be available as well as images from past lunar programmes and missions (including Japanese and India missions to the Moon). Se