Astronomy news

Martian Ice Cap data from NASAs Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have provided evidence of a large chasm and a series of spiral troughs on the northern ice cap of Mars (see also Nature May 27th and NASA newsletter May 26th at info [at] jpl [dot] nasa [dot] gov ). The Shallow Radar instrument onboard is sending back detailed information and it seems the northern ice cap is a stack of ice and dust layers up to 2 miles deep covering an area roughly the size of Texas.

Drought, Lightning, and the Sun ...

At tree rings have been used to compile a temperature proxy over 1000 years in NW Africa (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) and they show dry periods of climate in the 13th and 16th centuries - also in the late 20th century. They appear to coincide with warmish weather in northern Europe - droughts are virtually absent after around AD1500 - for about 400 years


NASAs Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer (otherwise WISE) has captured a huge mosaic of two bubbling clouds in space that are being called the Heart and Soul nebulae (see May 24th). The space telescope has completed three fourths of its infrared survey of the entire sky, and captured one million photographic frames. It will complete a mapping of the entire sky in July but will then spend 3 months doing the same thing again - until the solid hydrogen coolant required to chill its infrared detectors run dry.

A Jupiter Smack

At May 21st ... the impact of a large celestial object with the planet Jupiter last year is the subject of a paper in Astrophycical Journal Letters. It struck the planet near it's southern pole on its dark side which prevented direct observation of the smack - but was picked up a few hours afterwards by an amateur astronomer in Australia.

Big Bang, Anti Matter, and ...

The Daily Galaxy on May 19th asked, does the large scale structure of the universe nix big bang theory? There is apparently a growing body of evidence which questions whether the universe began with a big bang 14 million years ago. Several cosmologists challenge the theory that has dominated science in recent years - another one of those consensus theories that has become almost a hard fact.

Hinode Solar Optical Telescope update (solar flares)

At we are informed Hinode has identified the origin of white light emissions in solar flares. The source of the  white light had not been clarified since it was discovered in the 19th century. A solar flare is the most energy intensive explosion to be observed within the confines of the solar system and different ways of studying them have been used - from X-rays, radion and  chromospheric spectral lines.

Revealing the True Solar Corona

This is an article from American Scientist May/June 2010 volume 98:3, p212-9, and is written by Richard Woo. It can be fully downloaded from but when downloading set the printer to landscape mode as the text is wide.


At May 14th ... Phobus, the larger moon of the planet Mars, appears to be porous - an amalgamation of space rubble (see Geophysical Research Letters May 16th). The density of Phobus is not dissimilar to asteroids but quite how Mars could have captured an asteroid without breaking it to pieces is an unknown.

The Shy Sun

At is a report on what is going on, or not going on, at the surface of the Sun. The Michelson Doppler Images (MDI) onboard the Solar and Heliosphere Observatory (SOHO) measured a very small variation in the absolute solar radius values and the solar shape, a variation of just 22 milli-arc seconds from peak to peak, virtually nothing.

Hole in Clouds

At info [at] jpl [dot] nasa [dot] gov May 11th (see www.jpl.nasa,gov/news ) the Herschel Space Observatory has found a gaping hole in clouds surrounding a batch of young stars - providing astronomers with a glimpse into the star forming process. It is alleged. Stars are born obscured by dense clouds of dust and gas so little is actually known about the process - but theories exist. Now it seems there is a hole in the cloud surrounding the latest star birth event - but what might have blown the hole open?