"Sic Itur Ad Astra"


Weird, Wild & Breaking News Stories in Space and Astronomy From Around The World 24/7 Weekly With Updates. It's a FREE Service To The Public and ALL Media, It's Safe and Reliable. (Est. 2002)

This news service is emailed out each week to all requesting radio stations across Australia.  David Reneke ('Astro Dave') is one of Australia's most well known and respected astronomers and lecturers with links to some of the world's leading astronomical institutions. David is radio savvy, well experienced talking to the media and presents information in an easy to understand, up to date and informative manner. Enquiries for interviews or info Ph: (02) 6585 2260 Mobile: 0400 636 363 Email: davereneke@gmail.com

An Amazing 'STARGAZING' Experience

A Holiday That Is Literally 'Out Of This World' - Limited Seats Available

Ask Yourself Have You Ever... Touched a real space rock? Seen the rings of Saturn? Viewed star clusters 17,000 light years away? Seen the craters and 'seas' on the Moon up close... or just looked through a large telescope? View Planets, Exploding Stars, Clusters, Laser Guided Sky Tour + More!

The island proudly has little or no light pollution, boasts one of the darkest skies on Earth and is an ideal location for deep sky observing and Astro photography. * FREE 'Space Pack' with Each Booking! Norfolk Island is now a recognized Gold Level Dark Sky Town

Norfolk Island Stargazing Tour 4 -9 December 2021                                                                                                

 General Info & Bookings: Sophie O'Connor- issophie@travelcentre.nf Norfolk Island Travel Centre: 1800 1400 66

Albert Einstein was right (again): Astronomers have detected light from behind a supermassive black hole

Scientists confirm another one of Albert Einstein's predictions about gravity and light.(Supplied: Dan Wilkins)
Scientists confirm another one of Albert Einstein's predictions about gravity and light.(Supplied: Dan Wilkins)

Over a century ago, Albert Einstein predicted that the gravitational pull of black holes were so strong that they should bend light right around them. Black holes don't emit light, they trap it; and ordinarily, you can't see anything behind a black hole. But it seems Einstein's theory was right.

For the first time, astronomers have caught a glimpse of light being reflected - or "echoing" - from behind a supermassive black hole, 800 million light years away from Earth. These "echoes" were in the form of X-ray flashes, according to a study published in Nature.

While scientists have seen light bending around a black hole before, this is the first time they have been able to see the phenomenon happening from the other side. "Any light that goes into that black hole doesn't come out, so we shouldn't be able to see anything that's behind the black hole," said study co-author Dan Wilkins, an astrophysicist at Stanford University. The anatomy of a cosmic beast

With their enormous gravitational pull, black holes chew up anything that comes too close to their event horizon, the region where not even light can escape their clutches. Surrounding these cosmic beasts is the accretion disk, where gas and dust spiral towards oblivion.

As material gets sucked into the black hole, it releases a plume of super-hot particles called the corona, which emits X-ray flares. Light in the form of X-rays bounces off the back of the black hole's hot accretion disk, producing reflections called "echoes".

"Supermassive black holes are objects of extreme density up to billions of times more massive than our own sun," said Michael Cowley, an astrophysicist at the Queensland University of Technology, who was not involved in the study. The X-ray flares are generated when the black hole's giant magnetic field gets tangled up in its spin. 

"This magnetic field getting tied up and then snapping close to the black hole heats everything around it and produces these high energy electrons, that then go on to produce the X-rays," Dr Wilkins said.

Catching hidden light

Dr Wilkins and his team were studying these X-ray flares spewing out from the supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy called I Zwicky 1. Using NASA's Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton telescope, they saw the expected bright X-ray flashes - but there was also something strange going on.

The team detected fainter bursts of X-rays that had different wavelengths to the larger ones, indicating that they had bounced off the accretion disk from behind the black hole. This occurs when some X-rays manage to slip past the black hole's massive gravitational pull, only to get sucked back in.

Some of these escapee X-rays reflect off the back of the accretion disk and are bent around the black hole by its formidable gravity. It's this phenomenon that allowed Dr Wilkins and his team to detect these X-ray '"echoes" from the other side. "I've been building theoretical predictions of how these echoes appear to us for a few years," Dr Wilkins said.

Discovery provides insight into supermassive black holes

In addition to proving Einstein's theory of relativity is right once again, the discovery could also help astronomers better understand supermassive black holes, Dr Cowley said. "Their result provides further support for Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, which continues to hold up well after more than 100 years since publication," Dr Cowley said.

Tamara Davis, an astrophysicist at the University of Queensland, added that while we've seen gravity bending starlight around the sun during an eclipse, it's exciting to see it happening around a black hole. "It is very impressive that they have managed to interpret the flares they've seen as light that has lapped the black hole," said Professor Davis, who was not involved in the study.

"The exciting thing about this observation is that it is light bent around a black hole. "It tells us what the material around the black hole is doing, at a resolution we couldn't ever hope to achieve with conventional telescopes."

Russia's New 23-Ton Module Docked, Then Sent the Space Station Spinning

The International Space Station seen in orbit in 2018. (Image credit: NASA)
The International Space Station seen in orbit in 2018. (Image credit: NASA)

A Russian space official on Friday blamed a software problem on a newly docked science lab for briefly knocking the International Space Station out of position. The space station lost control of its orientation for 47 minutes on Thursday, when Russia's Nauka science lab accidentally fired its thrusters a few hours after docking, pushing the orbiting complex from its normal configuration. 

The station's position is key for getting power from solar panels and for communications with space support teams back on Earth. The space station's communications with ground controllers also blipped out twice for a few minutes on Thursday. 

Vladimir Solovyov, flight director of the space station's Russian segment, blamed the incident on a "short-term software failure." In a statement released Friday by the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Solovyov said because of the failure, a direct command to turn on the lab's engines was mistakenly implemented.

He added the incident was "quickly countered by the propulsion system" of another Russian component at the station and "at the moment, the station is in its normal orientation" and all its systems "are operating normally." Roscosmos director Dmitry Rogozin later Friday suggested that "human factor" may have been at play.

"There was such euphoria (after Nauka successfully docked with the space station), people relaxed to some extent," Rogozin said in a radio interview. "Perhaps one of the operators didn't take into account that the control system of the block will continue to adjust itself in space. And it determined a moment three hours after (the docking) and turned on the engines."

NASA said Thursday that the incident moved the station 45 degrees out of attitude, about one-eighth of a complete circle, but the complex was never spinning, there was no immediate damage or danger to the crew. 

The space station is currently operated by NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur; Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov of Russia's Roscosmos space corporation; Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

In 1998, Russia launched the station's first compartment, Zarya, which was followed in 2000 by another big piece, Zvezda, and three smaller modules in the following years. The last of them, Rassvet, arrived at the station in 2010.

Bezos beats Branson in space billionaires' battle for attention

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Imtiyaz Shaikh (Anadolu Agency), Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Imtiyaz Shaikh (Anadolu Agency), Drew Angerer/Getty Images

For many, the rise of commercial space tourism is a vulgar display of wealth and power. Amid several global crises, including climate change and a pandemic, billionaires are spending their cash on launching themselves into space for fun. When Amazon founder Jeff Bezos told reporters after his first space tourism trip on Tuesday that Amazon customers and employees had "paid" for his flight, that only intensified that criticism. 

HE built the company! HE put the time and effort in! HE owns it!  WHY should he not be allowed to spend it as he wants??? [Ed.]

But critics won't deter Bezos and the other superrich. Space tourism is now a reality for the people who can afford it - and it will have repercussions for everyone on Earth. In fact, all signs indicate that the market for these trips is already big enough that they'll keep happening. Jeff Bezos's spaceflight company Blue Origin already has two more trips scheduled later this year, while Virgin Galactic, the space firm founded by billionaire Richard Branson, has at least 600 people who have already paid around $250,000 each for future tickets on its spaceplane.

**A PERSPECTIVE: Consider This: QANTAS was founded in 1920 in the middle of the Spanish Flu Pandemic that swept the world. It BEGAN flying passengers leading up to and in the middle of the Great Depression (1939-1941


Jeff Bezos' flight into space generated more interest from the public than Richard Branson's, and both billionaires overshadowed their respective space companies.

Why it matters: Data shows an outsized public interest in the personalities at the center of the space trips, compared to the companies behind them - which could reinforce public suspicion that the ventures were partly vanity plays.

The big picture: Branson's launch happened first, and Virgin Galactic put together a slick livestream stuffed with celebrity cameos. But the world's richest man still commanded more attention a few days later.

  • Bezos' launch-day Google searches were 38% higher than Branson's and generated 19% more mentions on social media, according to data from Keyhole.
  • There were nearly twice as many stories written about Bezos around his launch compared to Branson nine days earlier, according to NewsWhip data.

By the numbers: Branson and Bezos both put themselves at the center of commercial space tourism this month, and the moguls themselves - not their space companies - held most of the public's attention.

  • For Tuesday's event, Google searches about Jeff Bezos were nearly twice as high as searches for Blue Origin, according to Google Trends.
  • Interest in Virgin Galactic was a little more even - there were 35% more searches for Richard Branson than his company.
  • Stories published online about Blue Origin that did not highlight Bezos generated 2.5x less engagement on average than those that did, according to exclusive data from NewsWhip.
  • Virgin Galactic stories not centered on Richard Branson got nearly half the engagement as those that were.

Between the lines: Famous billionaires may bring in more attention, but much of that reaction - particularly to Bezos - was scornful.

  • Bezos' comments that Amazon employees and customers "paid for all of this," and the ensuing backlash, were among the launch-related stories with the most social interactions, according to NewsWhip data.
  • Another top headline: "Jeff Bezos Takes Spaceflight. 165k People Sign Petition To Keep Him There."

 NASA's Webb to explore a neighboring, dusty planetary system

Various planet formation processes, including exocomets and other planetesimals, around Beta Pictoris, a very young type A V star (NASA artist's conception)
Various planet formation processes, including exocomets and other planetesimals, around Beta Pictoris, a very young type A V star (NASA artist's conception)

Researchers will use NASA's upcoming James Webb Space Telescope to study Beta Pictoris, an intriguing young planetary system that sports at least two planets, a jumble of smaller, rocky bodies, and a dusty disk. Their goals include gaining a better understanding of the structures and properties of the dust to better interpret what is happening in the system.

Since it's only about 63 light-years away and chock full of dust, it appears bright in infrared light - and that means there is a lot of information for Webb to gather. Beta Pictoris is the target of several planned Webb observing programs, including one led by Chris Stark of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and two led by Christine Chen of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.

Stark's program will directly image the system after blocking the light of the star to gather a slew of new details about its dust. Chen's programs will gather spectra, which spread light out like a rainbow to reveal which elements are present. All three observing programs will add critical details to what's known about this nearby system.

First, a review of what we know

Beta Pictoris has been regularly studied in radio, infrared, and visible light since the 1980s. The star itself is twice as massive as our Sun and quite a bit hotter, but also significantly younger. (The Sun is 4.6 billion years old, but Beta Pictoris is approximately 20 million years old.) At this stage, the star is stable and hosts at least two planets, which are both far more massive than Jupiter. But this planetary system is remarkable because it is where the first exocomets (comets in other systems) were discovered. There are quite a lot of bodies zipping around this system!

Like our own solar system, Beta Pictoris has a debris disk, which includes comets, asteroids, rocks of various sizes, and plenty of dust in all shapes that orbit the star. (A debris disk is far younger and can be more massive than our solar system's Kuiper Belt, which begins near Neptune's orbit and is where many short-period comets originate.) This outside ring of dust and debris is also where a lot of activity is happening. Pebbles and boulders could be colliding and breaking into far smaller pieces - sending out plenty of dust.

Scrutinizing this planetary system
Stark's team will use Webb's coronagraphs, which block the light of the star, to observe the faint portions of the debris disk that surround the entire system. "We know there are two massive planets around Beta Pictoris, and farther out there is a belt of small bodies that are colliding and fragmenting," Stark explained. "But what's in between? How similar is this system to our solar system? Can dust and water ice from the outer belt eventually make its way into the inner region of the system? Those are details we can help tease out with Webb."

Dust as a decoder ring
"After planets, most of the mass in the Beta Pictoris system is thought to be in smaller planetesimals that we can't directly observe," Chen explained. "Fortunately, we can observe the dust left behind when planetesimals collide."  "We'll analyze Webb's spectra to map the locations of dust and gas - and figure out what their detailed compositions are," Chen explained. "Dust grains are 'fingerprints' of planetesimals we can't see directly and can tell us about what these planetesimals are made of and how they formed."

The reach of infrared
These research programs are only possible because Webb has been designed to provide crisp, high-resolution detail in infrared light. The observatory specializes in collecting infrared light - which travels through gas and dust - both with images and spectra.

Webb also has another advantage - its position in space. Webb will not be hindered by Earth's atmosphere, which filters out some types of light, including several infrared wavelength bands. This observatory will allow researchers to gather a more complete range of infrared light and data about Beta Pictoris for the first time.

The James Webb Space Telescope will be the world's premier space science observatory when it launches in 2021. Webb will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it. Webb is an international program led by NASA with its partners, ESA (European Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency.

Meet Nicolinha, an 8-year-old astronomer who has already discovered 7 asteroids

At the age of 5, Nicole expressed her first interest in taking a course on astronomy and began searching the Internet until she found CEAAL.
At the age of 5, Nicole expressed her first interest in taking a course on astronomy and began searching the Internet until she found CEAAL.

At only two years old, Nicole Oliveira of Alagoas could barely speak, but she already knew enough words to make an unusual request: "Mom, I want a star". Mother, Zilma Jacana, did not understand and presented her with toy stars. It took her almost three years to realize that Nikolinha, as the girl is known to all, wanted a real star, one of them that shines in the night sky and is light-years away from Earth. The planet Saturn also charms her, but she says that she likes to study asteroids.

"I gave a lecture about asteroid Bennu And since then I've studied and been interested in many other asteroids," says Nicole, now eight. "I love all stars, but I find asteroids particularly fascinating."

Not coincidentally, since last year, Nicolinha has contributed to asteroid hunting, a citizen science program of the US space agency NASA, through which it found seven such stars moving in space with the help of software. he also has Canal No YouTube Regarding astronomy, he is a . is the founder of online course on the subject and the youngest member of CEAL (Center for Astronomical Studies of Alagoas), an institution that brings together amateur astronomers from all over Brazil.

At the age of 5, Nicole expressed her first interest in taking a course on astronomy and began searching the Internet until she found CEAAL. At first, the institution's president explained that, because of her age, she couldn't participate-but that didn't give her away.

"She insisted and, when she turned six, she had the opportunity to attend the course", says Zilma. She attended all classes, took exams, passed and became the youngest member of the organization." The feat attracted attention, and the girl was invited to give lectures at the same schools in her hometown of Maceo and CEAL. With the onset of the pandemic, however, face-to-face activities were suspended and hectic routines were replaced by long, boring days.

Nicolinha, of course, was upset by the situation, but she didn't let herself budge and "turned sadness into an opportunity," in the words of her mother. It was at that time that the idea came up to create the YouTube channel As Observation of Nicolinha and the online club Nicolinha & Kids, which, after two months of creation, already brings together 45 children.

Nicole says, "I started looking on the internet and saw that there is no YouTube channel for kids." "Both on the channel and the club, I talk about everything that involves astronomy and bring on professors to participate." It all started with a group on WhatsApp with three other friends who are also interested in astronomy. At a certain point, several children began to join the community and, at Nicolinha's request, Zilma created an Instagram profile for the club and YouTube channel.

Currently, the Instagram profile has 6,000 followers and the channel has over 1,000 subscribers. Nicole's mother and father are responsible for editing the video, but it is the daughter who creates all the content and invites them to participate by contacting the experts.

big dreams

In the midst of an unusual routine for an eight-year-old, Nicole still manages to juggle various projects and school, which, according to Zilma, is and will always be the girl's priority. Only once, he was exempted from class to achieve a great achievement: lecture at the first International Symposium on Astronomy and Aeronautics of the MCTI (Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation), held virtually in June this year.

Despite being very young, she recognizes the importance of studying and knows what path to take after graduating from high school many years from now. Interestingly, your big dream is not to become an astronaut. "Travelling in space must be wonderful, but still, I love being here (laughs)," Nicolinha says. "I want to be an aerospace engineer and build rockets to carry astronauts on important space missions."

It's Time NASA Built A 'Cosmic Dawn' Telescope On The Moon-And It Has Four Astonishing Plans To Choose From

Lunar Crater Radio Telescope
Lunar Crater Radio Telescope

Let's do astronomy from the Moon. Spurred on by the collapse of the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, the continuing degradation of the night sky by light pollution and the coming era of mega-constellations of satellites come four projects that seek to take astronomy to the Moon's far side.

Lunar astronomy is an idea that's been around since the 1960s, but new engineering and technology is at last making astronomy on the Moon a real possibility.

Why bother? About 240,000 miles/380,000 kilometers from Earth, observations can be made of low frequency radio in radio-quiet conditions and also in ultraviolet light-something blocked by Earth's atmosphere-that could help reveal the unexplored early cosmos. And since it takes the Moon 27 days to orbit Earth, a telescope would be in darkness for half the month and able to observe the same object for almost two weeks at a time.

Astronomy has been done before both by Apollo astronauts and, since 2013, by China's Chang-e rovers. Should NASA now commit to building the next big space observatory on the lunar surface?

1. Lunar Crater Radio Telescope

The recipient last April of a $500,000 Phase II grant from NASA's Innovative Advanced Concepts is the Lunar Crater Radio Telescope. The published concept is the brainchild of Saptarshi Bandyopadhyay, a robotics technologist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, the LCRT is an early-stage NASA concept for a radio telescope within a crater on the far side of the Moon.

The LCRT is designed to measure the long-wavelength radio waves generated by the "dark ages"-the few hundred million years after the Big Bang, but before stars were formed. They're reflected by Earth's ionosphere.

"Radio telescopes on Earth cannot see cosmic radio waves at about 33 feet/10 meters or longer because of our ionosphere, so there's a whole region of the Universe that we simply cannot see," said Bandyopadhyay. "But previous ideas of building a radio antenna on the Moon have been very resource-intensive and complicated, so we were compelled to come up with something different."

Bandyopadhyay's plan is to create an antenna over half a mile/1 kilometer wide in a crater over 2 miles/3 kilometers wide. "Our receiver sits inside a 700m deep crater. We are suspending both the receiver and the mesh-the reflector- inside the crater. The mesh sits at the bottom of the crater and the receiver sits 500m above it, but still 200m below the rim of the crater," said Bandyopadhyay. "We can suspend everything-and suspending on the Moon is significantly easier because it has one-sixth of the gravity of Earth."

That immediately gets away from large construction problems. The mesh is held in place at 16 points around the rim and the density is such that it passively holds the parabolic shape required.

The LCRT would be made from a thin wire mesh taken to the Moon by spacecraft along with a fleet of JPL's DuAxel rovers. Tethered together, one of these two-piece rovers would act as an anchor at the rim of the crater while the other drives into the crater to connect cables.

Even if the project doesn't result in a completed LCRT it should help further robotic technology capable of building off-Earth structures.

2. The Ultimately Large Telescope

No telescope can study the first stars in the Universe ... except one. Shelved by NASA a decade ago, there's been a revival of interest in the Ultimately Large Telescope (ULT), an ambitious vision of "mid-century technology."

Published in The Astrophysical Journal by a group of astronomers from the University of Texas at Austin, it's proposed that the ULT-an upsized version of the 2006's Lunar Liquid-Mirror Telescope (LLMT)-could be powerful enough to detect light from when there were no galaxies, just stars about 13 billion years ago. They're known as Population III stars-and the "first light"-and could be 100 times the size of our Sun.

The ULT would point at all times at the zenith from a crater at the Moon's north or south pole that's permanently in shadow. Powered by solar panels at another location in permanent sunlight, it would operate autonomously and send its data back to Earth via an orbiting relay satellite.

Instead of using glass, to reduce the weight it's proposed that the LCRT's shielded mirror is made from a reflective metallic liquid that would permanently spin to retain its paraboloid shape. However, the authors do worry that lunar dust may affect observations, so in-situ tests would be required.

Artist's depiction of a robot laying out an antenna on the lunar surface.

3. FarView

Another lunar radio telescope whose furthest study is being funded by a NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts grant-in this case a $125,000 Phase I-is FarView.

A partnership between the University of Colorado and Lunar Resources, Houston, FarView would be a network of hundreds of miles of as many as 100,000 radio antennas (a bit like old broadcast TV antennas) fabricated by robots on the Moon using materials extracted from it. It will create an interferometer with a total observatory area of over 250 miles/400 kilometers-and it could be ready to go by the early 2030s.

"FarView will be the most sensitive astronomical observatory in history ... and we can build it using almost exclusively lunar materials," said Dr. Ronald Polidan, principal investigator of FarView and director of programs at Lunar Resources Inc. "Our two key technologies are the ability to extract metals from oxide rich material-such as lunar regolith-and our ability to take those metals and evaporate them and build structures with them."

Lunar Resources is a space industrial company that specializes in lunar resource extraction and in-space manufacturing technologies. "With those technologies we can build physical structures, antennas, the wiring, and everything else that goes with it," said Polidan. "So we need to take very little from Earth with us-we can do in-situ production of everything we need."

The plan is to send a small rover to go lay just one antenna on the surface to see how it performs, adding a few more on subsequent visits. "Through utilization of the resources on the Moon, we could build FarView at about 10% of the James Webb Telescope cost and operate for more than 50 years. That's game changing," said Dr. Alex Ignatiev, chief technology officer of Lunar Resources.

Although like the LCRT it will be able to explore the cosmic "dark ages," it's hoped that FarSide will also be able useful in space weather forecasting, detect lightning storms on nearby planets and detecting magnetic fields around distant exoplanets.

4. Gravitational-Wave Lunar Observatory for Cosmology

Just last week a study was published that make the case for a gravitational wave infrastructure of unprecedented sensitivity on the surface of the moon to unlock "new physics." Gravitational waves are disturbances in the curvature of spacetime and could help astronomers measure the Hubble expansion rate-how fast the Universe is expanding.

A Gravitational-Wave Lunar Observatory for Cosmology would take advantage of the Moon's lack of atmosphere and significant seismic activity to analyze mergers of black holes, neutron stars and dark matter within 70% of the observable Universe.

"One of the most challenging spectrum of gravitational waves can be measured better from the lunar surface, which so far seems impossible from Earth or space," said lead author Karan Jani, an astrophysicist at Vanderbilt University in Nashvile, Tennessee. "Unlike space missions that last only a few years, the great investment benefit of GLOC is it establishes a permanent base on the Moon from where we can study the Universe for generations, quite literally the entirety of this century." Jani hopes to develop a pathfinder mission on the Moon to test the technologies of GLOC.

New physics and the early universe is calling, and we must go ... to the Moon.

Hubble Finds First Evidence of Water Vapour at Jupiter's Moon Ganymede

An illustration of the subsurface ocean now believed to exist on Ganymede, Jupiter's largest moon. (Kelvinsong)
An illustration of the subsurface ocean now believed to exist on Ganymede, Jupiter's largest moon. (Kelvinsong)

Astronomers have used archival datasets from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope to reveal the first evidence for water vapour in the atmosphere of Jupiter's moon Ganymede, the result of the thermal escape of water vapour from the moon's icy surface.

Jupiter's moon Ganymede is the largest moon - and the ninth-largest object - in the Solar System. It may hold more water than all of Earth's oceans, but temperatures there are so cold that water on the surface freezes and the ocean lies roughly 160 kilometres below the crust. Nevertheless, where there is water there could be life as we know it. Identifying liquid water on other worlds is crucial in the search for habitable planets beyond Earth. And now, for the first time, evidence has been found for a sublimated water atmosphere on the icy moon Ganymede.

In 1998, Hubble's Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS) took the first ultraviolet (UV) pictures of Ganymede, which revealed a particular pattern in the observed emissions from the moon's atmosphere. The moon displays auroral bands that are somewhat similar to the auroral ovals observed on Earth and other planets with magnetic fields. These images were therefore illustrative evidence that Ganymede has a permanent magnetic field. The similarities between the two ultraviolet observations were explained by the presence of molecular oxygen, O2. The differences were explained at the time by the presence of atomic oxygen, O, which produces a signal that affects one UV colour more than the other.

As part of a large observing programme to support NASA's Juno mission in 2018, Lorenz Roth, of the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, led a team that set out to capture UV spectra of Ganymede with Hubble's Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) instrument to measure the amount of atomic oxygen. They carried out a combined analysis of new spectra taken in 2018 with the COS and archival images from the STIS instrument from 1998 and 2010. To their surprise, and in contrast to the original interpretations of the data from 1998, they discovered there was hardly any atomic oxygen in Ganymede's atmosphere. This means there must be another explanation for the apparent differences between the UV aurora images.

The explanation was then uncovered by Roth and his team in the relative distribution of the aurorae in the two images. Ganymede's surface temperature varies strongly throughout the day, and around noon near the equator it may become sufficiently warm that the icy surface releases some small amounts of water molecules. In fact, the perceived differences between the UV images are directly correlated with where water would be expected in the moon's atmosphere.

"Initially only the O2 had been observed," explained Roth. "This is produced when charged particles erode the ice surface. The water vapour that we have now measured originates from ice sublimation caused by the thermal escape of H2O vapour from warm icy regions."

This finding adds anticipation to ESA's upcoming Jupiter ICy moons Explorer (JUICE) mission - the first large-class mission in ESA's Cosmic Vision 2015-2025 programme. Planned for launch in 2022 and arrival at Jupiter in 2029, it will spend at least three years making detailed observations of Jupiter and three of its largest moons, with particular emphasis on Ganymede as a planetary body and potential habitable world. Ganymede was identified for detailed investigation because it provides a natural laboratory for the analysis of the nature, evolution and potential habitability of icy worlds in general and the role it plays within the system of Galilean satellites, and its unique magnetic and plasma interactions with Jupiter and its environment (known as the Jovian system).

"Our results can provide the JUICE instrument teams with valuable information that may be used to refine their observation plans to optimise the use of the spacecraft," added Roth.

Understanding the Jovian system and unravelling its history, from its origin to the possible emergence of habitable environments, will provide us with a better understanding of how gas giant planets and their satellites form and evolve. In addition, new insights will hopefully be found into the potential for the emergence of life in Jupiter-like exoplanetary systems.

Aussie Winter Sky Spectacular

Aussie stargazers already have the major planets in the early evening along with brilliant stars that fleck the Milky Way.
Aussie stargazers already have the major planets in the early evening along with brilliant stars that fleck the Milky Way.

Attention all budding sky watchers, grab your telescopes. What you're about to read might give you an uncontrollable urge to dash outside. The two brightest planets in the solar system are on show across Australia, and you can see them anytime this month.

Go out at sunset and look up towards the east. The planet Jupiter pops out mid evening as a very bright 'star.' Surrounded by evening black it's a spellbinding sight, and looks great even in a small telescope or binoculars. Jupiter is the largest planet but doesn't have a solid surface that we can see, just thick poisonous clouds a thousand kilometres deep.

This brilliant planet will climb higher throughout the night and continue into the morning twilight, even after all the stars have been washed from the sky. Next to Saturn, it's the best thing to look at through a home telescope. Go and look, you'll see striped bands across the middle and Jupiter's four star-like moons circling it.

Now, behind you and you'll see an equally brilliant sight with Venus, commonly called the 'evening star, blazing brightly above the western horizon. Wow, this is magic! Venus is the second planet from the Sun and is so much brighter than any other planet in the solar system. Venus also spins backwards, opposite the way Earth does on its axis. So on Earth, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but on Venus the sun would rise in the west and set in the east. Weird huh?

Through a telescope Venus will show you phases just like the Moon, and you'll notice it appears fuzzy. Well, that's about as good as it gets. Thankfully, there's nothing wrong with your telescope. By the way, Venus is the number one object reported as a UFO. True!

The Lord Of The Rings Beckons

Aussie stargazers already have the Southern Cross high overhead in the early evening along with brilliant stars that fleck the Milky Way. Now there's a new player in the game, the ringed world Saturn, and you're going to want to take a peek. You'll find Saturn rising in the east at 5.40 pm, just after sunset. You're looking for a small yellowish 'starlike' point of light. Pan around with your binoculars and you're sure to spot it. On your phone download an app called 'SkyView' to help you out.

A view of Saturn in a good telescope often draws gasps from visitors. It's the planet with the 'Wow factor. Every time I show people Saturn for the first time they turn around with a wide grin and say, "Wow, it really is there!" But, there is a warning about viewing Saturn through a telescope. It could get you hooked on astronomy! It did with me. Tip: Wait till its high in the sky for the best look!

Right now the rings are tilted in our direction and getting wider. They were edge on in 2009 and almost impossible to see. This is the best time in three decades to view Saturn!!  

While you're quietly taking in Saturn at the eyepiece consider this. Saturn is so light that if you had an ocean big enough to hold it, it would float. Really! Saturn's rings are only 10 metres thick and are made almost entirely of ice. Astronomers believe a huge comet on a collision course broke up around the planet shattering into millions of bits of dust, dirt and ice.

Saturn is the second largest planet in the solar system, and more than 750 Earths could fit inside it. Now you know why we call it the Lord Of the Rings.


Many thanks to Peter and the crew at ASTRO ANARCHY Queensland. A New business with the amateur astronomer firmly in mind.  Astro Anarchy has the experience, the stock and the knowledge to set up the first timer, to assist in the development of our hobby for the experienced observer OR cater to any other size need or desire in the field of amateur astronomy. 

ATRO ANARCHY AS OUR SPONSOR: My business partner Peter Davies and I have set up a new Astro Tourism business focusing on the recently 'Dark Sky Town' accredited to Norfolk Island. We call it 'Norfolk Island STARGAZING'. When approached, Pete from Astro Anarchy had no hesitation in organizing and supplying all our Telescopes, Binoculars and associated gear to get started. Nothing was any trouble allowing us more than enough time to set up and become fully operational. He and he and his business come highly recommended for anyone wanting any astronomical gear in Australia.

Web: https://www.astroanarchy.com.au/    Sales: sales@astroanarchy.com.au   Phone: 0412 085 224

'Stargazing' - Astronomy Nights At Your Place

Ask Yourself Have You Ever...looked through a large telescope? Touched a real space rock? Seen the rings of Saturn, Jupiter's Moon? Viewed star clusters thousands of light years away OR seen huge craters and 'seas' on the Moon up close? 

Our special program is unique... a never to be forgotten journey of the night sky. There is nothing quite like seeing the distant stars and planets with your own eyes through our magnificent telescopes - and it's all done from your backyard with your friends around!  *See more on this STARGAZING program: : Click

'Astro Dave' Is Radio-Active

                                          Just a few of the 66 Stations I'm heard on weekly

                   CLICK to listen To Just a Couple Of Past Interviews


Testar has several hundreds of items imported from all across the world, ready to be shipped to you so you don't have to wait or pre-order.  Go visit the website and check out the range: Everything that is in stock is actually in stock and the website reflects what we have on hand. Go visit the website and check out the range: TESTAR

Mad About Science is the home of unique science products - toys, kits, gizmos, novelties, supplies and teacher resources - designed to amaze as well as educate. With over 2000 product listings, our unique and extensive product range covers all your home and school science needs. Our science inspired toys and STEAM products appeal to a wide range of ages  They also make great gifts with a difference!

**Leave a message or comments on this website or any of the stories in box below:

NB/ Please Include Your Name and Email address If You Require An Answer.