Category Archives: Astronomy News

How long to travel to Alpha Centauri?

In April 2016, Russian high-tech billionaire Yuri Milner announced a new and ambitious initiative called Breakthrough Starshot, which intends to pour $100 million into proof-of-concept studies for an entirely new technology for star travel, aimed at unmanned space flight at 20% of light speed, with the goal of reaching the Alpha Centauri system – and, presumably, its newly discovered planet Proxima b – within 20 years. Is it possible?

I doubt it, but it’s an interesting read.  –cathypl

Click here to see designs of possible FTL space ships.

80% chance of polar geomagnetic storms Friday

Space Weather News for August 3, 2017

GEOMAGNETIC STORM WATCH: NOAA forecasters say there is an 80% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on Aug. 4th when a solar wind stream is expected to buffet Earth’s magnetic field. The wind is flowing from a canyon-shaped hole in the sun’s atmosphere, so wide that it is almost bisecting the solar disk. Storm levels could reach G2-category (moderately strong) during the late hours of Aug. 4th, subsiding to G1-category (minor) on Aug. 5th. Visit for more information and updates.

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Above: A canyon-shaped coronal hole (CH) is spewing solar wind toward Earth. This extreme ultraviolet image was taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

Source of Mars Trojans Might Be Mars Itself

Source of Mars Trojans Might Be Mars Itself

A new study proposes a source for the mysterious Mars Trojans: Mars itself.

Mars Trojan

An artist’s conception of a Mars Trojan, ejected from the Red Planet.
Polishook / Weizmann Institute of Science

It’s one of the major mysteries of the inner solar system: How did Mars — a tiny world only a tenth the mass of Earth — capture its cluster of orbit-sharing Trojan asteroids?

Trojans are asteroids that co-orbit either ahead of a planet, at the L4Lagrangian point, or behind it at the L5 point. These regions are stable because the gravitational pull of the planet balances that of the Sun. Trojan asteroids have been discovered around Jupiter, Uranus, Neptune, Venus, and Mars. (Only one Trojan (2010 TK7) has been discovered related to the Earth, though the Osiris-REX mission bound for 101955 Bennu is currently on the hunt for more.)

Many studies have suggested that the asteroid belt, which lies just outside the orbit of Mars, may have been the source of the Mars Trojans. Now, a study published in the July 17th Nature Astronomy points to a new possible source: Mars itself.


NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility

The study used observations from NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility, based at the Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawai’i, to look at the spectra of two Mars Trojans: 311999 (initially desgnated 2007 NS2) and 385250 (2001 DH47. The light reflected off these asteroids shows a characteristic broad absorption band around 1 micron, consistent with the presence of olivine — a mineral rare in asteroids but common in the crust of Mars.

“Asteroids like this are very rare in the main belt of asteroids (0.4%),” says David Polishook (Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel). “Therefore, the chances that the few asteroids captured by Mars are olivine-rich asteroids is extremely low.” But Martian rovers and orbiters, and even Martian meteorites recovered on Earth, have shown that Mars itself offers an ample supply of olivine.


A spectacular CME is heading for Mars

A spectacular CME is heading for Mars, will the Martians see Aurora?

Space Weather News for July 23, 2017

MASSIVE EXPLOSION ON THE FARSIDE OF THE SUN: On July 23rd, NASA and European spacecraft observed a massive explosion on the far side of the sun. A spectacular CME tore through the sun’s atmosphere and it now appears to be en route to Mars. Earth will not feel the effects of the blast because of its location on the opposite side of the sun. However, the source of the eruption, old sunspot AR2665, will turn back toward our planet in early August, possibly bringing a new round of geomagnetic storms and auroras. Read all about it on today’s edition of

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Above: This CME, blown into space by old sunspot AR2665 on July 23rd, appears to be en route to the planet Mars. Image credit: Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO)


Space Weather News for July 21, 2017

CME SWEEPS ASIDE COSMIC RAYS: On July 16th, a CME hit Earth’s magnetic field, sparking two days of geomagnetic storms and beautiful auroras. The solar storm cloud also swept aside some of the cosmic rays currently surrounding our planet. A sudden decrease in deep space radiation was detected by a global network of neutron monitors as well as a space weather balloon in the stratosphere over California. Almost a week later, cosmic rays are finally returning to normal. Learn more about this event on today’s edition of

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Above: This CME, blown into space by sunspot AR2665 on July 14th, reached Earth two days later and blew away many of the cosmic rays surrounding our planet. Image credit: Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO)

gorgeous pictures of Jupiter’s Red Spot

For gorgeous pictures of Jupiter’s Red Spot, go to

Here’s a sample! Got to site to see the full resolution images.

This enhanced-color image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot was created by citizen scientist Kevin Gill using data from the JunoCam imager on NASA’s Juno spacecraft.

The image was taken on July 10, 2017 at 07:07 p.m. PDT (10:07 p.m. EDT), as the Juno spacecraft performed its 7th close flyby of Jupiter. At the time the image was taken, the spacecraft was about 6,130 miles (9,866 kilometers) from the tops of the clouds of the planet.

Potential for Aurora Display!

Space Weather News for July 14, 2017

STRONG SOLAR FLARE AND CME: After days of suspenseful quiet, huge sunspot AR2665 finally erupted on July 14th (0209 UT), producing a powerful M2-class solar flare. The explosion was underway for more than two hours and hurled a bright coronal mass ejection (CME) toward Earth. Geomagnetic storms and high-latitude auroras are likely when the CME arrives this weekend. Visit for images and updates.

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Above: The July 14th solar flare, recorded by extreme ultraviolet telescopes on board NASA’s Solar Dynamics Obse


Space Weather News for July 9, 2017

SOLAR ACTIVITY INTENSIFIES: Sunspot AR2665, which emerged just as few days ago, has mushroomed into a behemoth nearly as wide as the planet Jupiter. On July 9th the fast-growing sunspot produced an M-class solar flare and a short-lived shortwave radio blackout over east Asia and Australia. Stronger flares and Earth-directed CMEs may be in the offing as AR2665 turns toward our planet in the days ahead. Visit for images, movies and updates.

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Above: Amateur astronomer Peter Desypris took this picture of giant sunspot AR2665 on July 9th from Syros island, Greece. Sunspot photo gallery.


BRIGHT OUTBREAK OF NOCTILUCENT CLOUDS: Nightfall is supposed to bring darkness. This week in parts of Europe, nightfall has brought something different: an electric-blue glow caused by clouds of water-frosted meteor smoke rippling over the continent. These summertime “noctilucent clouds” (NLCs) have been much brighter than usual and even seem to be causing strange radio echoes above the Arctic Circle. The sudden intensification of NLCs could herald more widespread sightings in Europe and North America in the nights ahead. Visit for observing tips and more information.

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Above: In Debrad, Slovakia, the sky turned electric-blue after sunset on July 2nd. Photo credit: Tamás Csabala.

Long Range Sensors Detect…

  1. Jupiter’s moons
  2. Rosetta Finds Clues to Earth’s “Xenon Paradox”
  3. Mini-Flares Might Threaten Life Around Red Dwarf Stars
  4. The Curious Case of Tabby’s Star

Jupiter’s moons: Two new moons have been discovered and 5 lost ones found again by researchers looking for Planet X.   READ MORE

Rosetta Finds Clues to Earth’s “Xenon Paradox” :  Xenon measured by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft has shed light on a long-standing mystery about the role comets played in Earth’s formation. READ MORE

Comet 67P

The alien surface of Comet 67P seen from Rosetta’s OSIRIS wide-angle camera on May 17th from 9 kilometers away.
ESA/Rosetta/OSIRIS Team









Mini-Flares Might Threaten Life Around Red Dwarf Stars: The interesting aspect of this article is that fan writers with astronomical knowledge have long considered Star Trek’s Vulcan to be a planet orbiting a red dwarf. This would explain the 3rd eyelid to protect against sudden blinding light.  READ MORE

Mini-Flares Might Threaten Life Around Red Dwarf Stars

The Curious Case of Tabby’s Star:  Three new ideas have emerged to explain Tabby’s Star, officially known as KIC 8462852, but the jury’s still out on what’s really causing the weird behavior of our galaxy’s most mysterious star.

Comet swarm around Tabby's Star

This artist’s concept shows a swarm of comets passing before a star.
NASA / JPL-Caltech

The star KIC 8462852, also called Tabby’s Star, has been the subject of intense debate since May’s announcement that this unusual F-type star, located in the constellation of Cygnus, was dimming once again.

Observations at Fairborn Observatory detected a 2% drop in brightness between May 19th and 21st, and a host of ground- and space-based telescopes jumped in on the action.

Ever since the first public report of the mysterious star in 2015, numerous theories have been proposed to explain its bizarre behavior — sometimes the star’s brightness dims by a couple percent, like last May, but sometimes it dips by as much as 20%, and for days to weeks at a time. Not to mention the long-term fade that appears to be plaguing the star. So it’s no surprise, perhaps, that many proposed explanations have failed in their attempts to explain what’s going on.   READ MORE