Astronomy news

Transit of Mercury

William sent in the link ...which may or may not work for you. If not go to and key down to 12th November 2019 which has a video which is crystal clear (probably the same one)_. The best view of the transit comes from NASAs Solar Dynamics Observatory (22,000 miles above the surface of the earth).

None the less, backyard astronomers were also able to make an image - see for example ....

Oxygen on Mars

This link was sent in by Gary - ... NASA scientists are said to be baffled after a portable chemistry lab on the Curiosity Rover (sampling the air) detected fluctuations in oxygen levels on Mars. The oxygen levels vary from one season to the next (over a 3 year period) and scientists now think that it is not the atmosphere of Mars that is fluctuating, as such, but somewhere in the vicinity there is an oxygen sink (or oxygen is leaking on to the surface). If so it is currently an unknown source of oxygen.

Expanding the Universe

Scientists are expanding the universe it would seem - via state of the art technology and technique. See ... what we have is another measurement of the Hubble Constant - recently made uncertain by several studies that have come up with different rates of expansion. The concept of an expanding universe was put forward by Edwin Hubble in the early 20th century. He found that galaxies were moving away from each other - so the story goes.

The Universe is a Sphere

I quite like this one. At ... researchers from the universities of Manchester, Rome and Paris have sparked a debate amongst cosmologists by claiming data from the Planck Space Observatory suggests the universe is a sphere - it is not flat (or oblate like a pizza on a plate) as most cosmologists have supposed -as at Big Bang light expanded out in a straight line (or lines). The findings are published in Nature Astronomy (see ... ).

Voyager 2

At ... interstellar space - scientists detect plasma density jump as Voyager 2 moved from the solar system to beyond. The inference is that outer space has a higher density level of plasma - or that is the thinking of researchers in a paper in Nature Astronomy (Nov 2019) - although one might argue it is the bubble around the solar system that is dense (I suppose). There is definitely a boundary at the outer reaches of the solar system - as experienced somewhat earlier when Voyager 1 passed through.

Louis A Frank

Louis A Frank was a scientist at the University of Iowa who theorised that small comets made of ice and water crashed into Earth's atmosphere to create lakes, rivers, and oceans. He interpreted small black dots found on NASA camera data (from its satellite Dynamics Explorer, as the small comets. Other scientists thought they were transmission errors.

Centaurs and Humans

Robert sent in a link to ... but see ... where the same subject has already been on the News. The study concerns huge comets known as centaurs orbiting beyond Jupiter. The inference is that a lot of smaller comets also inhabit that region of the sky and are regularly kicked into a new orbit taking them into the inner solar system on a journey around the Sun (until they are finally broken up into streams of dust that litter near space).

Tail of a comet

At (October 14th 2019) ... we have been told that Comet Borisov is an interloper - from another solar system. However, it is behaving in much the same way as any ordinary run of the mill comet. It sports a tail for example and the tail is rich in cyanide (much like most of the comets in our solar system). The comet is fairly bright, and dusty - also much like any other comet. Is it really an interloper? Prior to the advent of last year's interloper it would have been described as a comet with an origin in the Kuiper Belt.

Cyanide Gas

At ... which concerns comet Borisov, the newcomer currently making its way through the solar system. Data gathered by the William Herschel Telescope founhd it contains cyanide. It is therefore potentially dangerous to life on Earth - a killer. However, calculations of its future trajectory show it is not going to come anywhere in the vicinity of the Earth. Saved by the bell.

Unusual Auroral Activity

At (8th October 2019) we have solar minimum and the Sun has been blank (no spots) for 28 out of the last 30 days. In such a situation solar flares and certainly not on the scale to breach Earth's magnetosphere. However, we have just an Arctic auroar outburst - without the whiff of a sun spot. The image below was taken in Norway ...