Astronomy news

The Big story this week ...

The big story this week is undoubtedly the two reports issued by NASA on the Planck images of the universe - see www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-109&cid=release_2013-109 which concerns the Planck space mission (telescope) which has released a detailed mapping of the oldest stars, and therefore light, in the universe, revealing new information about age, contents, and origins. Apparently, the universe is not expanding as fast as the consensus would have had us believe, even last week. The universe, they say, is 100 million years older than theorised previously.

Pan-STARRS

Comet Pan-STARRS has emerged from it passage around the back of the Sun intact - see http://phys.org/print282814278.html ... but it is glowing brighter than a first magnitude star - and can now be seen without the aid of binoculars. The official reason for its brightness is that it has been heated up by the Sun - but the EU has a different perspective - see www.thunderbolts.info

Life on Mars before Earth?

This is one of those funny stories that has caught on without any firm evidence to support it. Lots of blogs are bloviating on the subject and these include www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/ and www.space.com/20192-mars-life-before-earth.html and they all derive from a news flash from NASA about Mars Curiosity Rover finding some sediments on Mars - and everything has sprung out of that. See also http://phys.org/print282315290.html

Solar Flare 774/5

The solar flare of AD774/5 (sometimes AD776) is the subject Mike Baillie has earmarked for his 2013 AGM talk - but I'm sure it will include lots of other interesting add-ons. A new paper in Geophysical Research Letters might be worth having a look at - go to http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/03/12/solar-proton-event-seen-in-tree-ri... ... has worked out it was one order of magnitude more powerful than a solar flare in 1989 and such events are not as rare as people might imagine.

See the article at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/grl.50222/abstract/

Russian Meteor update

At http://science.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/09/17253655-earth-gets-a-rush-o... ... the Russian meteor has been followed by a succession of near misses, it would seem, and not just those that broke in mainstream media. An asteroid as big as a city block passed by last saturday, 600,000 miles away but fairly close on a cosmic rock average - and again, nobody knew it was out there. The Russian meteor is now said to have been the size of a bus, downgraded from the size of a large building - so it has shrunk (in estimation).

Scablands on Mars

The NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft beamed back images that scientists have used to create a 3-D reconstruction of ancient water channels below the surface of Mars - see www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2013-087&cid=release_2013-087

Comet Pan-STARRS

Armagh Observatory has an image of Comet 2011 44 (Pan-STARRS), a bright comet that will be visible in the northern hemisphere this week - see http://phys.org/print281792029.html .... It is a bright comet and in November will be followed by Comet ISON, which will be even brighter.

Milky Teeth

At www.io9.com/5988736/has-the-milky-way-devoured-other-galaxies?utm ... a study in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society claims the Milky Way has absorbed smaller galaxies - but millions of years ago. Not only that, speculation is that the two black holes of the two galaxies became a single black hole. Old stars were blasted from the core region at hypervelocity speeds. Two giant lobes of energetic diffuse gamma-ray light are at the heart of our galaxy, straight above and below the galactic plane. The edges of the bubbles are super sharp - like teeth.

Transits of Venus and flooding on Earth

This story goes back to last year's transit of Venus. Phil Plait focussed on some dodgy Chinese science - rather, one maverick Chinese scientist, and he made a meal out of it. The story is at www.badastronomy.com/bad/misc/venus_flood.html ... and picks up on something said by Geng Guoqing (Chinese Geophysics Society) preceding the transit of Venus, and that is that he had noticed a correlation between such events and flooding incidents along the Yellow River.