See bright near-Earth asteroid 2017 VR12 pass close to star Spica, 7–8 March

4 March 2018 Ade Ashford

Possibly as large as The Shard in London, Apollo asteroid 2017 VR12 passes just 3¾ lunar distances from Earth at 7:53am GMT on 7 March. For a few nights, this magnitude +12 space rock is a viable target for small backyard telescopes as it gallops through Coma Berenices and Virgo, passing just 0.8 degrees from Spica on the UK night of 7–8 March.


See asteroid Phaethon, source of the Geminids, in a close brush with Earth

4 December 2017 Ade Ashford

As shooting-star devotees prepare for the naked-eye spectacle of the Geminid meteor shower in mid-December, owners of small telescopes can also witness the close passage of the meteors’ parent body — a curious “rock comet” known as 3200 Phaethon, galloping through the constellations of Auriga, Perseus, Andromeda, Pisces and Pegasus at a rate of up to 15 degrees/day.


Watch asteroid 2014 JO25 brush by Earth on 19 April

17 April 2017 Ade Ashford

A peanut-shaped asteroid almost a mile long known as 2014 JO25 passes within 5 lunar distances of Earth on 19 April — the closest any known space rock of this size has approached our planet since September 2004. We show you how to find this fast-moving potentially hazardous asteroid in small telescopes during the UK night of 19-20 April.


Moon was produced by head-on collision between Earth and forming planet

29 January 2016 Astronomy Now

The Moon was formed by a violent, head-on collision between the early Earth and a “planetary embryo” called Theia (pronounced THAY-eh) approximately 100 million years after the Earth formed, UCLA scientists reveal. This new research also refutes the work of a team of German scientists who, in 2014, reported that the Moon also has its own unique ratio of oxygen isotopes, different from Earth’s.


Chinese lunar rover’s rock analysis reveals a more diverse Moon

23 December 2015 Astronomy Now

China’s Yutu rover finds volcanic rocks unlike those returned by earlier missions, offering tantalising clues to the period of lunar volcanism that suggest the Moon was never a fully homogenised body like the Earth. The basalts the rover examined are a new type, chemically different from those retrieved by the Apollo and Luna missions 40 years ago.


Asteroids found to be the Moon’s main ‘water supply’

3 October 2015 Astronomy Now

Water reserves found on the Moon are the result of asteroids acting as “delivery vehicles” and not of falling comets as was previously thought. Using computer simulation, scientists from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and the RAS Geosphere Dynamics Institute have discovered that a large asteroid can deliver more water to the lunar surface than the cumulative fall of comets over a billion year period.


Research may solve Moon’s volcanic fire-fountain mystery

24 August 2015 Astronomy Now

Tiny beads of volcanic glass found on the lunar surface during the Apollo missions are a sign that fire fountain eruptions took place on the Moon’s surface. Now, scientists have identified the volatile gas that drove those eruptions. If volatile reservoirs on the Earth and Moon do indeed share a common source, it has implications for understanding the Moon’s origin.