Astronomy news

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

See www.physorg.com/print217169841.html 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.

Comets and Comet Elenin

SIS member JC Hanselman provided the following link, http://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi?sstr=elenin&orbit=1 but wait for the Java applet to load (some security systems may reject this as a potential threat to your computer). This link is not working now and has probably been archived.

A Giant Flare, a new super planet, and NEOs are zipping past the earth at the rate of one a day

At http://spaceweather.com we learn that satellites have detected the biggest solar flare in 5 years - produced from a giant sun spot (in reality a series of small sun spots that accumulated in a small region of the sun's surface). It is the strongest type of X-ray flare and the first of solar cycle 24. What is surprising is that the surface of the Sun otherwise remains extremely quiet - without another blemish.

Asteroid 2011 CQI

At www.dailygalaxy.com Feb ruary 12th 2011, in the midst of several very outdated postings, is this one. A small asteroid, or large meteor, came within 5480km of the earth's surface last week. The approach was close enough to alter the orbit of the object, shifting it by 60 degrees - and nobody saw it coming?

Moon Water

At www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/69615 we have three stories - one is on Titan's cirrus clouds as recorded by the Cassini spacecraft, another on massive starbirthing events as witness by ESAs Herschel infrared telescope and the last one is all about a new theory on water on the Moon, as picked up by India's Chandrayaan spacecraft. A paper will be published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

Solar Sail

At http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2011/24jan_solarsail/ there is a picture of the solar sail. NASAs Nano Sail-D satellite has unfurled a gleaming sheet of space age fabric 650 km above the earth. The idea is to clear up near space.

Sun spots might be livening up

The Sun is coming alive once again as a huge sun spot region is developing lots of dots and signs of activity. According to a NASA spokesman it is a jumble of magnetic polarities, one of the conditions for magnetic reconnection and solar flares. The Solar Influences Data Centre in Belgium issues a daily bulletin on the Sun, hence the hype over what is really a rash of small dots rather than a genuine sun spot.

Comet Rendevous

NASAs Stardust NExT spacecraft is nearing a rendevous with Comet Tempel on February 14th (see http://stardustnext.jpl.nasa.gov/ ). The mission is designed to look for changes on the surface of the comet following its recent orbit around the Sun - what effects did coming close to the Sun have on the comet? It will image composition, distribution and flux of dust emitted into the coma and material surrounding the comet nucleus.

Worlds in Near Collision

At www.nytimes.com/2011/01/16/weekinreview/16chang.html?ref=kennethchang there is a story sent in by member Gary Gilligan. It begins with the theme of plate tectonics and earthquakes and proceeds to the solar system and planetary astronomy. Apparently, it is now thought the solar system is not a constant but has changed - over time.

Ice Ages - some speculation

At www.sciencebits.com/ice-ages there is an article by Nir Shaviv, a youngish scientist, if his picture is up to date, that has been making waves the past few years. He sees a connection between solar activity and the terrestrial climate as the solar wind varies in strength and effects the amount of cosmic rays reaching earth from outside the solar system.