An enormous magnetic binary star system has been discovered by Canadian PhD student, Matt Shultz of Queen’s University, Ontario. The object is unusual because giant stars rarely have magnetic fields; and giant binary stars with magnetism are even less common, accounting for only about 2% of stars in the Milky Way. The discovery was made usingContinue reading “A mysterious binary star”
Astronomers using gravity maps from NASA’s twin GRAIL (Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory) satellites have discovered that the Moon’s upper crust – the megaregolith – is highly porous. The GRAIL satellites, Ebb and Flow, determined the Moon’s gravity field by measuring tiny movements of the spacecraft due to the push and pull of gravity uponContinue reading “A shattered lunar landscape”
Just released by the European Space Agency (ESA), this stunning image shows Mars’s southern polar ice cap, as rarely seen before. This is a permanent feature, composed of frozen water and carbon dioxide, and is 3km deep in places. It looks flat in this amazing image, but is in fact a mixed terrain of peaks, troughs andContinue reading “Cosmic cappuccino”
Melanie Davies writes about the 2015 solar eclipse – the last one visible from Europe for more than a decade On the morning of Friday 20th March 2015, we’ll be in for an astronomical treat… an eclipse of the Sun. A total solar eclipse happens roughly once a year somewhere in the world, but weContinue reading “Chasing the eclipse”
There are not many space missions that have touched the hearts and minds of people throughout the world as much as Rosetta. Named after the Rosetta Stone – a slab of volcanic basalt responsible for revealing the mysteries of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics – this intrepid comet chaser has inspired a generation of science explorers, uncovering mysteries bound up in its icy companion, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.
Finally, a much-anticipated astronomical event that didn’t leave us disappointed! The close encounter of Comet Siding Spring with Mars on 19th October 2014 resulted in some great imagery and, hopefully, some interesting science to come. Siding Spring passed a mere 87,000 miles above the red planet: less than half the distance between the Earth andContinue reading “Close encounter of the first kind”
Have you ever wondered where the expression “we’re all made of stardust” came from? Well, I’m not sure who first coined the phase, but we are indeed made of stellar stuff. Carbon-based lifeforms (us), silica in the rocks, and oxygen in the atmosphere – all of the elements found within our bodies and in theContinue reading “Supernova: A blast from the past”
The International Astronomical Union (IAU) caused a cosmic stir when it kicked Pluto out of the planet gang, demoting it to ‘dwarf planet’ status. The decision by the IAU – the body responsible for naming and categorising astronomical objects – was, and still is, hotly contested.
We’ve all been enjoying the summer Sun, but how many of us stop to think about the dynamics of our local star? Throughout history, the Sun has been worshipped and celebrated with rituals and festivals throughout the world. And there’s good reason for celebration; sunshine gives us light and heat – vital ingredients for lifeContinue reading “The fluctuations of our super star”
Until fairly recently, it was generally thought (and taught) that the planets in our solar system were formed more or less where they currently reside on their solar orbits. Within the the last few decades, planetary scientists have had to re-think this theory.