Astronomy news

Watch this video clip

SIS member Dr Peter Paget has provided this link to a video slide show of the sky - at


Life on Mars (?)

At we have a report that seems to suggest that NASAs Viking Mars Lander mission in 1976 may actually have examined soil that contained carbon based building blocks of life. Organics and perchlorate may have been present in the soil  although it is quite possible the organics had an origin in meteorites - and the ability of perchlorate to break down organic material was not realised at the time.

Water and Stars

At there is a report from ESA (the European Space Agency) that the Herschel infrared space observatory has discovered that ultraviolet starlight is a key ingredient for making water in the atmosphere of some stars. It is the only explanation, they continue, for why a dying star is surrounded by a gigantic cloud of hot water vapour (published in Nature September 2nd).

Near Earth Update - NASA report

This story from NASA (see September 2nd) has popped up all over the blogosphere, with various angles to the headlines. NASAs Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed  a lot of new information about near earth objects orbiting in near space - mainly asteroids, or defunct comets. However, the composition of these bodies turns out to be highly varied. Some are dark and dull and others shiny and bright (the Astronomical Journal September issue).

.. and a red comet ...

There is an image of a red comet at September 1st, being Comet Sidling Spring, which is named after the Australian observatory where it was first seen in 2007. It was visible in binoculars until January of this year (2010) and the post goes on to describe the idea of panspermia - the seeding of life by comets. Life on earth seems to have appeared soon after the termination of a massive bombardment event at around 3.8 billion years ago (so it is said).

... and after the diamonds we have red rain ...

At - an interesting post sent in by Gary Gilligan that moves seamlessly into juxtaposition  to the extraterrestrial impact debate - and red rain clearly has analogies with the Biblical Exodus event which was decyphered by Velikovsky as derived from a comet passing relatively close to the earth. The authors of the paper, Rajkumar Gangappa (University of Glamorgan), Chandra Wickramasinghe (Cardiff University), Milton Wainwright (Sheffield University), S.

A funny looking crater on Mars

At .... Orcus Patera is a mysterious elliptical depression near the equator of Mars, some 380km by 140km in a NNE - SSW direction. It has a rim that rises up 1800m above the surrounding plain while the floor of the depression is some 400 to 600m below the surrounding landscape. It doesn't fit into any currently accepted pattern - impact or volcanic

Radio emissions from sun spots

At ... professor Jeongwoo Lee (see also seeks to explain why sun spots are a source of radio emissions because hot electrons gyrate in the coronal magnetic field. As they gyrate they produce an efficient radiation called gyro-resonant emission. This serves as an indicator of the magnetic field and of temperature in the coronae above sun spots.

A Sun Spot

At the website of Ciel et l'Espace, a French astronomy magazine, has published a picture of a sun spote (below)

It is the most detailed ever taken in visible light - and the website intends to publish further images. They have an origin in the US, at the Big Bear Solar Observatory, a unique location on a lake (see )

Jupiter smacked again

At August 23rd ... we have a story that is repeated at many other internet sources but I like this one as it includes further information. Jupiter was hit again by an object, caaptured on film this time by an amateur Japanese astronomer. When he made the claim, with a an image to back it up, the Hubble space camera swang around and various terrestrial space telescopes (and no doubt amateur back window ones too) homed in on Jupiter and confirmed that an impact had probably occurred (the aftermath).