News

Solar storms ignite X-ray aurorae on Jupiter

22 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Solar storms are triggering X-ray aurorae on Jupiter that are about eight times brighter than normal over a large area of the planet and hundreds of times more energetic than Earth’s “northern lights,” according to a new study using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory when a giant solar storm arrived at the planet.

News

NASA’s IBEX observations pin down interstellar magnetic field

28 February 2016 Astronomy Now

Immediately after its 2008 launch, NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, spotted a curiosity in a thin slice of space: More particles streamed in through a long, skinny swath in the sky than anywhere else. The origin of the so-called IBEX ribbon was unknown — but its very existence opened doors to observing what lies outside our solar system.

News

Thirtieth anniversary of Voyager 2’s encounter with Uranus

24 January 2016 Astronomy Now

Humanity has visited Uranus only once, and that was exactly 30 years ago. NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft got its closest look at the mysterious, distant, gaseous planet on 24 January 1986. The probe sent back stunning images of the coldest planet known in our solar system and its moons during the flyby, which allowed for about 5½ hours of close study.

Picture This

Tim Peake’s aurora photography masterclass

21 January 2016 Astronomy Now

NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and ESA astronaut Tim Peake shared a series of aurora photographs taken from the International Space Station on 20 January 2016. The dancing lights of the aurora provide spectacular views on the ground, but also capture the imagination of scientists who study incoming energy and particles from the Sun.

News

The Sun could release flares 1,000x greater than recorded

3 December 2015 Astronomy Now

A binary star known as KIC 9655129 observed by NASA’s Kepler space telescope is known to produce superflares, thousands of times more powerful than those ever recorded on the Sun. Research led by the University of Warwick suggests the underlying physics of KIC 9655129’s superflares and solar flares might be the same, supporting the idea that our Sun could also produce such phenomena.

News

MAVEN reveals speed of solar wind stripping Martian atmosphere

6 November 2015 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission has identified the process that appears to have played a key role in the transition of the Martian climate from an early, warm and wet environment that might have supported surface life to the cold, arid planet Mars is today. Researchers have determined the rate at which the Martian atmosphere is losing gas to space via stripping by the solar wind and that the erosion increases significantly during solar storms.

News

Comet’s tail may shed light on solar wind heating

14 October 2015 Astronomy Now

We can’t see the wind, but we can learn about it by observing things that are being blown about. And by studying changes in a comet’s bright tail of gas and ions, scientists are on the trail to solving two big mysteries about the solar wind — the supersonic outflow of electrically charged gas from the Sun’s million-degree upper atmosphere, or corona.

News

3000th comet discovered by Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO)

15 September 2015 Astronomy Now

On 13 September 2015, the ESA/NASA Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) discovered its 3,000th comet, cementing its standing as the greatest comet finder of all time. The comet was spotted in SOHO’s data by Worachate Boonplod of Thailand — a citizen scientist typical of the NASA-funded Sungrazer Project volunteers responsible for 95 percent of SOHO comet discoveries.

News

NASA’s LADEE spacecraft finds neon in lunar atmosphere

17 August 2015 Astronomy Now

The Moon’s thin atmosphere contains neon, a gas commonly used in electric signs on Earth because of its intense glow. While scientists have speculated on the presence of neon in the lunar atmosphere for decades, NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft has confirmed its existence for the first time.

News

Cassini catches Titan naked in the solar wind

30 January 2015 Astronomy Now

Researchers analysing data from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft were able to study the effect of a powerful solar outburst on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, when it was unprotected from a raging stream of energetic solar particles.