Archive for the ‘Astronomy’ Category

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Get ready: “In June 2019 the Earth will approach within [0.06 AU or 9 million km] of the center of the Taurid swarm, its closest post-perihelion encounter with Earth since 1975”. Is there a Tunguska link?

Spaceweather.com

May 24, 2019: In November 2032, Earth will pass through the Taurid Swarm, a cloud of debris from Comet 2P/Encke that makes brilliant fireballs when its gravelly particles occasionally hit Earth’s atmosphere. Previous encounters with the Swarm in 2005 and 2015 produced showers of bright meteors observed around the world; in 1975 the Swarm contacted the Moon, making Apollo seismic sensors ring with evidence of objects hitting the lunar surface. If forecasters are correct, we’re in for similar activity 13 years from now.

Some researchers are beginning to wonder if there might be more to the Taurid Swarm than the pebble-sized particles that make fireballs–something, say, that could level a forest. On June 30, 1908, a forest in Siberia did fall down when a 100-meter object fell out of the sky and exploded just above the Tunguska River. Back-tracking the trajectory of the impactor suggests it may have come from…

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Saturn seen across a sea of methane on Titan by Huygens probe 2005


Not sure they mean Earth also has eerie lakes – apart from Lake Erie perhaps. Titan, billed here by a researcher as ‘the most interesting moon in the solar system’, has some observed similarities with Earth, plus some quirks of its own.

There’s one other place in the solar system where liquid rains, evaporates, and seeps into the surface to create deep lakes: Saturn’s moon Titan, says Tech Times.

In this alien world, the Earth-like hydrologic cycle does not take place with water, but with liquid methane and ethane. In Titan’s ultra-cold environment, these gases behave just like water.

Two new papers published in the journal Nature Astronomy detailed the findings of the concluded Cassini mission, particularly the details on Titan’s lakes and their composition.

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Solar flare erupting from a sunspot [image credit: space.com]


Another of the sun’s secrets comes into view.

The sun’s magnetic field is ten times stronger than previously believed, new research from Queen’s University Belfast and Aberystwyth University has revealed.

The new finding was discovered by Dr. David Kuridze, Research Fellow at Aberystwyth University, reports Phys.org.

Dr. Kuridze began the research when he was based at Queen’s University Belfast and completed it when he moved to Aberystwyth University in 2017. He is a leading authority on the use of ground-based telescopes to study the sun’s corona, the ring of bright light visible during a total eclipse.

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Jupiter dominates the solar system


Scientists predict the next parting of Jupiter’s veil of clouds for 2019. We like ‘regular pattern’ planetary mysteries.

New research finds a pattern of unique events at Jupiter’s equator, reports ScienceDaily.

A regular pattern of unusual meteorological events at Jupiter’s equator has been identified by planetary scientists at the University of Leicester.

Jupiter’s striped appearance of light zones and dark brown belts provides breathtaking views through amateur and professional telescopes alike. But Jupiter’s stripes can change and shift over poorly-understood timescales, sometimes expanding and contracting, sometimes fading away entirely.

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See a passing comet this Sunday

Posted: December 15, 2018 by oldbrew in Astronomy, News, solar system dynamics
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Comet 46P/Wirtanen [image credit: NASA]


The comet can be found near the Pleiades star cluster, conditions permitting.

On Sunday, Dec. 16, the comet known as 46P/Wirtanen will make one of the 10 closest comet flybys of Earth in 70 years, and you may even be able to see it without a telescope, says Phys.org.

Although the approach will be a distant 7.1 million miles (11.4 million kilometers, or 30 lunar distances) from Earth, it’s still a fairly rare opportunity.

“This will be the closest comet Wirtanen has come to Earth for centuries and the closest it will come to Earth for centuries,” said Paul Chodas, manager of the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

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It has been billed as The Comet of The Year.

Spaceweather.com

Nov. 26, 2018: Small but hyperactive Comet 46P/Wirtanen is approaching Earth and could soon become visible to the naked eye. On Dec. 16th, the kilometer-wide ball of dirty ice will be less than 11.5 million km away–making it one of the 10 closest-approaching comets of the Space Age. It already looks magnificent through amateur telescopes. On Nov. 26th, Gerald Rhemann took this picture using a 12-inch reflector in Farm Tivoli, Namibia:

“The comet is currently gliding through the southern constellation Fornax,” says Rhemann. “If you look carefully at the image, you can see galaxy NGC 922 near the comet’s head, and another galaxy ESO 479-2 on the left.”

Rhemann says that the comet’s emerald green atmosphere is 50 arcminutes wide. In other words–almost twice as wide as a full Moon. Its apparent diameter could double in the weeks ahead as the comet comes even closer. Because Wirtanen’s brightness is spread…

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Image credit: howstuffworks.com


The ancients may even have recorded the supposed ‘Younger Dryas’ comet strike.

Some of the world’s oldest cave paintings have revealed how ancient people had relatively advanced knowledge of astronomy, says Phys.org.

The artworks, at sites across Europe, are not simply depictions of wild animals, as was previously thought. Instead, the animal symbols represent star constellations in the night sky, and are used to represent dates and mark events such as comet strikes, analysis suggests.

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Credit: NASA


Meet ‘The Goblin’. This body’s maximum distance from the Sun is a massive 2300 times further out than Earth’s.

A newly spotted dwarf planet, 2015 TG387, adds to the mounting evidence that an unseen super-Earth prowls the edge of the solar system, reports Cnet.

Astronomers have found a small object far beyond Pluto that orbits the sun in a lonely, oblong loop, a discovery that supports the notion of a larger, more distant planet — often referred to as Planet X — wandering the edge of our solar system.

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A rapid-fire lecture on solar-planetary links, sunspots, volcanoes, ice cores, climate and a whole lot more, including a closer look at the Spörer Minimum.

CO2 is Life

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Solar system cartoon [NASA]


If a planet – assuming it exists – is very far away, extremely faint, could be almost anywhere, and is barely moving relative to its background (maybe one degree every few decades), then however large it may be the chances of finding it any time soon are not great.

Astronomers think that Planet Nine exists at the edge of the Solar System, says the Tech Times.

Here’s one possible reason why the body remains elusive despite circumstantial evidence that it exists beyond planet Neptune.

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Water ice found on the Moon

Posted: August 21, 2018 by oldbrew in Astronomy, News, solar system dynamics

Mosaic of images of the Moon taken by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper. Blue shows the signature of water [image credit: NASA]


Even Mercury has polar water ice, despite being much closer to the Sun, so perhaps this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise.

Lunar scientists have confirmed the ‘definitive’ discovery of water ice on the surface of the Moon, reports the BBC’s Sky At Night magazine.

Astronomers have ‘definitively’ proven the existence of water ice on the surface of the Moon.

The ice deposits could be ancient, and have been found at the lunar poles.

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There’s a new paper coming out in Astronomy and Astrophysics from Wu, Usoskin et al that is of interest to us. It reconstructs solar activity over 9 millennia. When I get a copy of the data, I’ll compare it to Steinhilber et al’s 2012 effort.

solar-9k-usoskin

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A montage of Uranus’ large moons and one smaller moon: from left to right Puck, Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania and Oberon. Size proportions are correct. [image credit: Vzb83 @ Wikipedia (from originals taken by NASA’s Voyager 2)]


The five major moons of Uranus in ascending distance from the planet are:
Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania and Oberon

Of these, the first three exhibit a synodic resonance similar to that of Jupiter’s Galilean moons, as we showed here:
Why Phi? – the resonance of Jupiter’s Galilean moons

Quoting from that post:
The only exact ratio is between the synodic periods which is 3:2:1.
It isn’t necessary to have an exact 4:2:1 orbit ratio in order to get a 3:2:1 synodic ratio.

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Astronomer announces he has discovered … Mars

Posted: March 22, 2018 by oldbrew in Astronomy, humour

Mars [image credit: NASA]


As banana skins go, this is a good one. Bad luck, professor!

In an online publication, this astronomer reports the detection of a very bright object in the night sky that wasn’t there before. Turns out, he’s thousands of years late for this discovery, says LiveScience.

Astronomer Peter Dunsby just made a groundbreaking discovery, after noticing a very bright “star” pop up in his field of view at an observatory at the University of Cape Town that was not present two weeks prior.

Too bad Dunsby was perhaps thousands of years late … the bright object was the planet Mars.

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NASA releases stunning photo of cartwheel galaxy

Posted: January 24, 2018 by oldbrew in Astronomy


It’s an enhancement of an earlier image, but this just has to be seen.
H/T Sci-News

NASA has released the sharpest image ever taken of the Cartwheel Galaxy, a lenticular galaxy in the constellation Sculptor.

The Cartwheel Galaxy was first spotted on wide-field images from the U.K. Schmidt telescope and then studied in detail using the Anglo-Australian Telescope.

Also known as LEDA 2248, ESO 350-40 and IRAS 00352-3359, the galaxy is an estimated 150,000 light-years in diameter and has a mass of about 3 billion solar masses.

Along with the two galaxies on the left, the Cartwheel is part of a group of galaxies approximately 500 million light-years away.

According to astronomers, the cartwheel shape of the galaxy is the result of a violent galactic collision.

Continued here.

K2-138 could even have more than five planets. [image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech]


And it’s a good one. The abstract says: ‘The periods of the five planets are 2.35, 3.56, 5.40, 8.26, and 12.76 days, forming an unbroken chain of near 3:2 resonances.’

The Exoplanet Explorers project has led to the first discovery of a multi-planet system solely through crowdsourcing efforts, as Futurism reports.

Through a project called Exoplanet Explorers, a band of citizen scientists has discovered K2-138, a far-off planetary system that houses least five exoplanets.

This is the first time that a multi-planet system has been discovered entirely through crowdsourcing.

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Star system has record eight exoplanets

Posted: December 14, 2017 by oldbrew in Astronomy, Astrophysics, News
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Kepler Space Telescope [credit: NASA]


The two nearest planets to the star Kepler-90 (90b and 90c) are very close to a 5:4 (i.e. first order) orbit ratio.

Nasa finds a distant star circled by eight planets, equal to the complement in our own Solar System, BBC News reports.

It’s the largest number of worlds ever discovered in a planetary system outside our own.

The star known as Kepler-90, is just a bit hotter and larger than the Sun; astronomers already knew of seven planets around it.

The newly discovered world is small enough to be rocky, according to scientists.

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A/2017 U1 may be from beyond our solar system [image credit: Tony873004 / Wikipedia]


This is real, unlike the object in the 1980s spoof ‘It Came From Somewhere Else’, described by one critic as ‘filmed on a shoestring budget, without the shoe and without the string’ – but amusing anyway. “We have been waiting for this day for decades,” said one scientist.

A small, recently discovered asteroid – or perhaps a comet – appears to have originated from outside the solar system, coming from somewhere else in our galaxy, says Phys.org. If so, it would be the first “interstellar object” to be observed and confirmed by astronomers.

This unusual object – for now designated A/2017 U1 – is less than a quarter-mile (400 meters) in diameter and is moving remarkably fast.

Astronomers are urgently working to point telescopes around the world and in space at this notable object. Once these data are obtained and analyzed, astronomers may know more about the origin and possibly the composition of the object.

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Saturn’s moon Janus


Cassini maintains its reputation for surprises right to the end. It’s the ‘moon resonances’ that maintain ring stability, but with a new twist.

For three decades, astronomers thought that only Saturn’s moon Janus confined the planet’s A ring – the largest and farthest of the visible rings.

But after poring over NASA’s Cassini mission data, Cornell astronomers now conclude that the teamwork of seven moons keeps this ring corralled, as Phys.org explains.

Without forces to hold the A ring in check, the ring would keep spreading out and ultimately disappear.

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