Astronomy news

Jupiter Hit ... again ...

See as Anthony Wesley, an amateur astronomer from Australia, was looking at Jupiter and witnessed a bright flash as an object struck Jupiter and burnt up in its atmosphere. He is the same sky gazer that last year spotted a scar the size of the Pacific Ocean near Jupiter's south pole  that was later proved to be an asteroid or comet strike. Using an infra-red telescope NASA found that indeed, Jupiter had been struck, and credited Wesley.

Leaves of Grass

At ... we have a post on Walt Whitman, a poet who left in one of his collections, Leaves of Grass, a reference to a 'huge meteor succession' in extremely vivid detail that has caused people to think he witnessed the event. Scholars have debated the issue for over a hundred years, and astronomers have equally been puzzled. What exactly did he see?

Origins of Earth ... a new idea ... there is a fresh insight into the origin of planet earth, involving geochemical data. The surpising result is that earth did not fully form in the beginning - but was 40 per cent of itself. See the link for details.

Huge Flare

At ... XMM Newton images of the emisson of the neutral iron flourescent line in molecular clouds around Sgr A taken between 2004 and 2008 shows that the supermassive black hole thought to be at the centre of the Milky Way went through a turbulent phase during the past few centuries. The evidence comes from surrounding molecular clouds whose variation in X-ray and gamma-ray luminosity reflects a major flare in the recent past (see the Astrophysical Journal).

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.