Astronomy news

Flying Saucers and the Rings of Saturn

This story is at March 17th ... and concerns weird flying saucer shaped moons in the rings of Saturn that have intrigued astronomers after seeing them on images transmitted by the Cassini spacecraft. A paper in the December 6th issue of Science says the two Yorkshire Pudding shaped Aunt Bessie like moons seem to be formed from the same material as the rings themselves. They are in effect, clumps of ice and dusty accretions. The actual flying saucer shape is found elsewhere in the universe - around what are thought to be black holes, around stars, around Jupiter etc.

Apophis - the asteroid

At we learn that astronomers are keeping tabs on asteroid Apophis as it approaches a close encounter with the earth in 2029. The position of the asteroid over the next few months will enable astronomers to study it more closely - before its orbit takes it back into the Sun's glare. That makes observation virtually impossible.

X-Flares and Quakes

At March 12th, it is said it is just a coincidence that the earthquake in Japan coincided with a geomagnetic storm - in case anyone was thinking otherwise. Earthquakes occur without geomagnetic activity and vice versa - but does that put paid to the possibility?

Enceladus (heat from the Poles) and ET life in a meteorite

At March 7th ... heat from the south polar region of Saturn's moon Enceladus has been found to be much greater than previously deduced. The new information is derived from the Cassini spacecraft and has been written up in a paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research (March 4th, 2011). At the south Pole there are a number of linear fissures which seem to indicate the heat is internal - but this is guesswork.

Sun Spots - mystery solved?

At (and see also March 3rd for the same story but with lots of comments). Scientists think they have solved how the Sun works - and have produced a computer model on its past performances. The real meat is yet to come - can they predict how the Sun will behave in the future?

The earth is being bombarded by space dust - but where does it come from?

The story is at and no doubt at the NASA web site too. NASA are saying that every day 100 tons of meteoroids - frangments of dust and gravel and sometimes small rocks enters the atmosphere of the earth - but it is unclear from what source. It is generally assumed the passage of comets leave behind trails of debris after they round the Sun.

More on that comet fly by

NASA has released a video which can be seen at of the recent, Feb 14th/15th flyby of Comet Tempel1 by the Stardust spacecraft.

Elenin Update

Various strange web sites have picked up on Comet Elenin and the faact that initially, its trajectory was at around 8 astronomical units (au) from the orbit of the earth but this figure has since been revised to  0.15 au with the prospect earth will pass through its debris trail in November. The story also appears at Feb 21st, and provides a number of web sites to view further information.

Forbush Decrease

At ... a forbush decrease is apparently a rapid decrease in the observed cosmic ray intensity following a coronal mass ejection. It occurs as a result of the magnetic field of the solar wind sweeping some of the galactic cosmic rays away from the earth - and that is going on right now.

The giant planet that just won't show its face to the camera

See a giant planet bigger than Jupiter is lurking in the Oort Cloud, is the claim. Strangely the author quotes the dodgy science newspaper, The Independent - which appears to claim the recent WISE mission found a new super planet in our solar system. The WISE scientists on the other hand deny any such thing, not surprisingly, but with some negativity that has fueled the conspiracy theories.