"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

In Time For Xmas - Kids Space Activity Pack Reduced to $9.95!

We constantly get asked for Kids Educational Material. I've put together a very affordable hands on 'Space Package' for the young budding astronomer. EACH PACK CONTAINS lots of fun, educational Space Astro activity pages. Mazes, Colouring, Dot to Dot, Word Search, and More! (Contents can be copied and reused)  

We've included our popular astronomy & space 'fact sheets,' a set of colourful peel-off Space Stickers, a quick telescope buyers guide PLUS Our "Welcome To Astronomy" booklet.  * DETAILS HERE

THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO ASTRONOMY             BONUS OFFER! (Till Xmas)......Every order will automatically receive a copy of the E-Book everybody wants (Value $20) to their inbox. You're no idiot, of course. You can tell a shooting star when you see one, spot the Saucepan, and name all the astronauts from the first moon landing. But when it comes to understanding astronomy, you feel like you're lost in space. Don't go supernova yet! The Complete Idiot's Guide to Astronomy tells you all you need to know about astronomy, from its fascinating beginnings to today's newsworthy discoveries. In this Complete Idiot's Guide, you'll start to understand and learn astronomy.

Mom Wins Trip to Space on Virgin Galactic Flight - and She Hopes to Bring Daughter as Her Guest!

One lucky mom is in for the experience of a lifetime. Keisha S., a health and energy coach from Antigua and Barbuda, is the proud winner of two seats aboard one of Virgin Galactic's first commercial flights to space thanks to Virgin Galactic and Sir Richard Branson's Omaze sweepstakes

Making the experience even more exciting? She hopes to be able to bring her daughter, an astrophysics student, along for the trip.

"I barely have the words to capture my excitement," Keisha said in a statement. "I entered the sweepstakes after I saw an ad when I was taking my daughter to school, but who would have thought that I'd actually win. My daughter is studying STEM and wants to work at NASA, and I hope to share this experience with her because it would be an incredible dream come true for both of us, for our entire family.

"To be the first astronaut right now from the Caribbean Islands is such an honor," she adds. "I want to bring the flag of Antigua and Barbuda to space with me! Right now, I'm trying to live in the moment, take it all in and I hope my daughter and I - as a future astronaut!- can be an inspiration for women and girls everywhere."

The sweepstakes kicked off in July, after Branson, along with five other team members, embarked on the company's first fully crewed flight test.

Over eight weeks, the sweepstakes drew donations from 164,338 people around the world - and raised a projected $1.7 million in grants for Charities Aid Foundation America, which will grant all funds to Space for Humanity and its Citizen Astronaut Program.

The company says Keisha is the first person from the Caribbean islands to join its "Future Astronaut community" of 700 people. As a part of her experience, Keisha will also receive a tour of Virgin Galactic's spaceport in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, guided by the Virgin Galactic team and Branson, the company's founder.

Branson had the honor of personally telling Keisha that she won the sweepstakes, and the moment, he says, was a "moving" one.

"We founded Virgin Galactic almost two decades ago out of the dream that space travel could be accessible to everyone, and it was so inspiring to hear about Keisha's lifelong dream of going to space and to see her share this experience with her daughter," he said..

"It's in moments like these where I couldn't be happier to see the mission of Virgin Galactic come to life, and I'm so thrilled to welcome such a remarkable person like Keisha into Virgin Galactic's Future Astronaut family," he adds.

Omaze CEO and co-founder Matt Pohlson - who also surprised Keisha with the good news alongside Branson and Space For Humanity executive director Rachel Lyons - said they "couldn't be more thrilled" for Keisha.

"Omaze exists to dream the world better. Not only will a lifelong stargazer get to experience space, but this also helps Space for Humanity open up that opportunity to even more people. Because of that, the partnership with Virgin Galactic and Space for Humanity was a dream come true for Omaze too," Pohlson said in a press release.

Branson made history as the first billionaire to fly to space earlier this year. The 71-year-old, along with five Virgin Galactic crew members, flew to an altitude of 53.5 miles above Earth's surface on July 11, which is past the 50-mile mark NASA and the U.S. military consider the edge of space.

After the trip, Branson said that one of his next goals was seeing off the first Virgin Galactic customers on their trips to space.

Alignment of Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter

Watch for Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter lining up in the sky at the end of this month. They will appear closest to each other on November 25, 2021, visible to the naked eye after dusk.

Those living in the Northern Hemisphere will need an unobstructed horizon to see Venus as it sits very low in the sky; the planet climbs higher for the Southern Hemisphere. If nothing blocks your view, Venus is easy to find. With a visual magnitude of around 4, it's the brightest planet in the sky, and in late November - early December shines even brighter. Watch for it in the constellation Sagittarius.

Jupiter, the second brightest planet, is high in the south (or west, if you're in the southern latitudes) in the constellation Capricornus. The planet is still located near Saturn, which glows less than halfway from Jupiter to Venus. Saturn is the dimmest one of the trio - it's visible to the naked eye, but you'll need a darker sky to see it clearly.

If you doubt whether that bright dot in the sky is Venus, Jupiter, or a star, use the Sky Tonight app - it identifies any sky object. With its help, you can also visualize the planets' positions in the sky and learn the best time to observe them from your sites.

'Incident' delays launch of James Webb Space Telescope

Webb is being prepared for launch on a European Ariane rocket from French Guiana
Webb is being prepared for launch on a European Ariane rocket from French Guiana

The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope has been put back by at least four days to allow for more checks. It was to have been sent into orbit on 18 December and will now go up no earlier than the 22nd of the month.

A US space agency statement said an "incident" had occurred during launch preparations that induced a sudden vibration in the observatory. A firm date for lift-off, on an Ariane rocket, would be confirmed following the investigation, Nasa added.

JWST is the $10bn (£7.5bn; €9bn) successor to the veteran Hubble telescope. It's been designed to look deeper into the Universe than its predecessor and, as a consequence, look further back in time - more than 13.5 billion years ago. The aim is to see the first stars to light up the cosmos.

Scientists also expect to use its more advanced capabilities to study the atmospheres of distant planets in the hope that signs of life might be detected. Webb is currently at the European Kourou spaceport in French Guiana

Engineers there were in the process of attaching the telescope to its launch adapter - the large ring that will hold it in place atop its rocket - when a securing clamp unexpectedly popped open. The concern is the event will have sent a sharp mechanical shock through the telescope.

The US space agency statement read: "A Nasa-led anomaly review board was immediately convened to investigate and instituted additional testing to determine with certainty the incident did not damage any components. Nasa and its mission partners will provide an update when the testing is completed at the end of this week."

Dr Thomas Zurbuchen, the director of science at Nasa, said sensors that would normally be put on the telescope during transport had been taken off. "Just for sheer caution what we have done... [is go back] to a small number of subsystems and just do the functional tests to make sure that nothing happened as this energy went into the [telescope]," he told reporters.

"When you work on a $10bn telescope, conservatism is the order of the day." The telescope is considered robust. It has been built to survive the intense shaking and noise when its Ariane rocket climbs away from the launch pad. Part of the development testing for Webb even involved putting it on a table and vibrating it at high frequency.

Engineers have a control room next door to the cleanroom where Webb is being held in Kourou. All the observatory's systems are linked into the monitoring computers inside this room. The functional checks on sub-systems are therefore reasonably straightforward to undertake.

Webb was well advanced in its preparations in Kourou. It was even ahead of schedule. If the current investigation finds nothing awry, Engineers will move forward with fuelling the telescope, prior to lifting it on top of the Ariane vehicle about one week before roll-out to the launch pad. JWST is a joint project between Nasa and the European and Canadian space agencies.

Universe is Not Expanding After All, Controversial Study Suggests

Contrary to the prediction of the Big Bang theory, they found that the surface brightnesses of the near and far galaxies are identical.
Contrary to the prediction of the Big Bang theory, they found that the surface brightnesses of the near and far galaxies are identical.

According to a team of astrophysicists led by Eric Lerner from Lawrenceville Plasma Physics, the Universe is not expanding at all.

In their study, the scientists tested one of the striking predictions of the Big Bang theory - that ordinary geometry does not work at great distances.

In the space around us, on Earth, in the Solar System and our Milky Way Galaxy, as similar objects get farther away, they look fainter and smaller. Their surface brightness, that is the brightness per unit area, remains constant.

In contrast, the Big Bang theory tells us that in an expanding Universe objects actually should appear fainter but bigger. Thus in this theory, the surface brightness decreases with the distance. In addition, the light is stretched as the Universe expanded, further dimming the light.

So in an expanding Universe the most distant galaxies should have hundreds of times dimmer surface brightness than similar nearby galaxies, making them actually undetectable with present-day telescopes. But that is not what observations show, as demonstrated by this new study published in the International Journal of Modern Physics D.

The scientists carefully compared the size and brightness of about a thousand nearby and extremely distant galaxies. They chose the most luminous spiral galaxies for comparisons, matching the average luminosity of the near and far samples.

Contrary to the prediction of the Big Bang theory, they found that the surface brightnesses of the near and far galaxies are identical.

These results are consistent with what would be expected from ordinary geometry if the Universe was not expanding, and are in contradiction with the drastic dimming of surface brightness predicted by the expanding Universe hypothesis.

"Of course, you can hypothesize that galaxies were much smaller, and thus had hundreds of times greater intrinsic surface brightness in the past, and that, just by coincidence, the Big Bang dimming exactly cancels that greater brightness at all distances to produce the illusion of a constant brightness, but that would be a very big coincidence," Mr Lerner said.

That was not the only startling result of their research. In order to apply the surface brightness test, first proposed in 1930 by physicist Richard C. Tolman, the team had to determine the actual luminosity of the galaxies, so as to match near and far galaxies.

To do that, the astrophysicists had to link the distance to the galaxies with their redshift. They hypothesized that the distance is proportional to the redshift at all distances, as is well verified to be the case in the nearby Universe.

They checked this relation between redshift and distance with the data on supernova brightness that has been used to measure the hypothesized accelerated expansion of the Universe.

"It is amazing that the predictions of this simple formula are as good as the predictions of the expanding Universe theory, which include complex corrections for hypothetical dark matter and dark energy," said study co-author Dr Renato Falomo of the Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova, Italy.

Dr Riccardo Scarpa from the Instituto de Astrofısica de Canarias, Spain, who is a co-author of the study, added: "again you could take this to be merely coincidental, but it would be a second big coincidence."

Therefore if the Universe is not expanding, the redshift of light with increasing distance must be caused by some other phenomena - something that happens to the light itself as it travels through space.

"We are not speculating now as to what could cause the redshift of light," Mr Lerner said.

"However, such a redshift, which is not associated with expansion, could be observed with suitable spacecraft within our own Solar System in the future."

Advice for Xmas Telescope Buyers

Well, this week we're talking telescopes, Christmas telescopes that is! What's number one on your Christmas list this year? If peering at the night sky is your new year's resolution then a nice telescope is what you'll need.

I get a lot of people asking me about the best telescope to buy, and the short answer is buy the dearest one you can afford and the one you will use the most. I've got some good tips for you so listen up OK? And you've got less than 7 weeks to decide.

Telescopes today are a compromise between price and quality. As far as beginner telescopes are concerned, there are many junk telescopes out there, but decent starter scopes are not too expensive. Expect to pay at least $250 for a quality beginner telescope in Australia.

Sure, you can find scopes for around $100 or less, but beware. They often make claims that are preposterous, and are of very poor mechanical and optical quality.

Most important of all, don't believe the big colour images of planets and star clusters printed on cheapie telescope boxes in bargain stores and their outrageous claims of magnifying 1,000 times. They're placed there to entice you to buy. You won't see anything like this with any telescope except Hubble, and you know how much that cost!!

Don't buy your telescope from a department store, they generally don't have the experience to advise you. Buy from a private dealer who knows about telescopes, local camera shops can sometimes help too. My advice is buy from a telescope retailer who can assess your needs and point you in the right direction.

Perhaps the second most important part of a telescope is its mount. Make sure the one that comes with the scope you're considering is smooth, stable, and solid. If you can pick the entire scope and mount up with one hand it will wobble in the slightest breeze and you'll invent words never heard before. Better to avoid them!

The best way to get into astronomy is to first learn the constellations and then use a pair of binoculars to find your first 'deep sky' objects, like planets star clusters. If you're on a budget talk to Santa about a good pair of binoculars because they can really show quite a number of interesting sights in the night sky. Binoculars are, in effect, small double telescopes! I still use mine every session. 

Fishing By The Moon Phases

A full moon, or “fishing moon,” plays havoc with fish during the daytime. Just like the lunar cycles affect the tides, they affect everything that lives within that water.
A full moon, or “fishing moon,” plays havoc with fish during the daytime. Just like the lunar cycles affect the tides, they affect everything that lives within that water.

Every fisherman dreams of a bigger catch! Is it possible to know ahead of time when to plan a trip to enjoy some fishing, catch more than usual, and come home feeling 100% satisfied? There is so listen up!

When most people started fishing the best time for them was whatever time happened to suit. They tried different lures, baits and techniques until they spent a small fortune in a quest to improve their fishing catch. Time to introduce our Moon as a fishing buddy.

A group of fishing buddies once explored whether there was any truth in the moon's effect on the best fishing times. They kept a record of every trip made over a period of 18 months. All information related to the moon's phases, the weather conditions and the catches they made were carefully logged.

What they discovered convinced everybody that moon phase fishing really works! A bonus was the fact that it wasn't anywhere near as complicated as many would have us believe.

Every fisherman knows that the best fishing times are when the fish are feeding. This tends to be during dawn and dusk, but what often goes unnoticed are the two periods elsewhere in the day, moonrise and moonset.

Because the moon has an effect on a variety of factors surrounding the fish, including the live fodder they hunt, these periods, combined with the moon's phase, are what trigger feeding. The Moon has always known this but you didn't, right?

So, by choosing times when sunrise or/sunset and moonrise or moonset coincide with new or full moon phases, you'll increase you chance of a good fishing catch. Assuming there are fish in the area you're fishing in of course.

It's not complicated, it's just a matter of knowing ahead of time exactly when the sun and moon will rise and set. There is a phone app for this. Fish are most active during 90 minute windows surrounding each of these four daily events. That is 45 minutes before and after these four daily points. Want even better catches? Read on.

If you keep in mind what we've said then plan wisely to ensure you're at the water's edge on the days of new or full moon. You can use these 'windows' to reel in a catch like you've never done before. If you have to choose between sunrise/set and moonrise/set, always go with the moon as the moon is the stronger influence.

Keen hunters and fishers have always known that fish and game are most active at dawn and dusk, sunrise and sunset, but their activity surrounding moonrise and moonset is less noticeable because these events usually occur without the changes in light values we're used to.

If you carry a Smartphone with you here's a tip. I found a new mobile app for iPhone/iOS and Android mobile devices. It gives me accurate Moon and Sun details at a moment's notice. There are real time images of the current Moon phase, complete with technical data.

Quickly see if the Moon is above the horizon on the Lunar Position screen, along with Moon rise and set times and precise Moon position in the sky. If you also want to know Sun rise and set times, look at the Solar Position screen.

Be aware that it is possible to have a month without a full moon. This occurs in February, but either January or March will have two moons. By the way, when a month has two full moons, the second full moon is called a blue moon.

Now you know that moon phase fishing really works you can start to increase your own catch by being at the ready with your rod during the best fishing times available. It's easy and it works! Good luck!

More Reader's Questions

Astronomy is all about asking questions, and sometimes getting answers. As we close in on 2018 it marks 6 years that this Astronomy column has been appearing. In all that time I've answered perhaps a hundred reader questions. All cover a wide area and all are interesting. How many questions have you asked the sky? Here are some of the questions people I've been asked the most.

"How big is the Universe?" The answer is of course limitless because we can't actually see the edge of it. We don't even know if it has an edge so we say it's infinite. We can only see out to a distance of about 14 billion light years from Earth.

This means that the size of the Universe that we can see is about 28 billion light years across. No light has reached us from beyond this distance. These portions of the universe lie outside the observable universe. Just imagine, everything we can see in the night sky isn't really there. Feel small? I do too, but it really rams home how vast this Universe is.

OK, then, "Where is the centre of the Universe? Now this is going to sound silly but the centre of the Universe is, in fact, where you're standing right now! Walk out into any backyard in Geraldton tonight and look up. Everything is moving away from you in all directions. Move across the galaxy and take the same measurement, you'll get the same result. The Big Bang happened everywhere at once, therefore there is no measurable centre. So, it's true when they say you are the centre of your Universe!

Another question I get is, "Are there aliens?" Well, apart from being suspicious about a few of my neighbours, I believe we are definitely not alone. The numbers are just too great. There are 100 billion stars in our galaxy alone and the majority have planets around them. Surely with those numbers a few would be earth like and contain life.

What is a Blue Moon? Because the time between two full Moons doesn't quite equal a whole month, approximately every three years there are two full Moons in one calendar month. Over the past few decades, the second full Moon has been come to be known as a "Blue Moon."

Why is there a ring around the moon?Simply put, a ring or a foggy halo around the moon indicates the presence of tiny ice crystals in the atmosphere. Folklore has it that a ring around the moon signifies rain is coming, and in many cases this may be true. It's also believed that the number of stars within a moon halo indicate the number days before bad weather will arrive. Give it a try the next time you observe a moon halo.

Why do we always see the same side of the Moon from Earth?The Moon always shows us the same face because Earth's gravity has slowed down the Moon's rotational speed. The Moon takes as much time to rotate once on its axis as it takes to complete one orbit of Earth. Simple, isn't it?

Can You See the Great Wall of China From Space? This is a popular question. The reality is that you in fact can see the wall from the space station, but not from the Moon. The Apollo moonwalkers confirmed that you can't see it. The best you can see is the white and blue marble colours of our home planet.

The last big question asked is, "What would happen if I fell into a black hole?" Who knows, I sure don't, but it's cool to speculate isn't it. The only thing we know for sure is black holes swallow stars and planets and nothing, not even light, can escape its clutches. There may be a tunnel at the end that leads to another time, or another part of the Universe - a wormhole if you like. See you on the other side!

SpaceX 'excited' about building moon bases and Mars cities at the same time

SpaceX has big dreams to build cities on Mars and bases on the moon at the same time, one of the plan's key architects revealed over the weekend. 

SpaceX is aiming big in its plans to make humans a multi-planetary species.
SpaceX is aiming big in its plans to make humans a multi-planetary species.

Paul Wooster, SpaceX's principal Mars development engineer, explained that the Starship vessel under development is designed for versatility. That means, as the company aims to complete its first city on Mars by 2050, there's no need to switch development priorities or move the focus to complete one or the other.

"The [Starship] system also opens up capabilities, for example, to deliver very large payloads to the moon, set up and operate lunar bases," Wooster explained on Saturday at the 22nd annual Mars Society Convention at the University of Southern California. "Because it's the same system that's being used for going to the moon and going to Mars, it's not something where you have to stop going to the moon in order to go to Mars...we're really excited about the possibilities of doing both, having bases on the moon while we're also setting up these cities on Mars."

The comments highlight how SpaceX is aiming big in its plans to make humans a multi-planetary species. The Starship, under development in both Texas and Florida right now, is designed for full reusability with a Raptor engine powered by liquid oxygen and methane. The goal is to establish propellant depots on Mars that harvest resources from the planet, use that to create more fuel, and potentially establish a planet-hopping network that explores the solar system. These missions are all within closer reach thanks to the ongoing work to develop the Starship.

Wooster also shared what appeared to be a new concept image of the Starship on the moon. Unfortunately, as the image was shared on a projector screen in a bright conference room, the concept art appears rather washed out:

SpaceX Starship: how the company plans to expand out further

When CEO Elon Musk unveiled the first Starship prototype in September, he outlined a speedy timetable to get this plan in motion. It involves a 20-kilometer test jump in a couple of months, followed by an orbital flight sometime thereafter.

From there, previous public comments suggest Starship could launch a satellite as early as 2021. A trip around the moon, featuring Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and six to eight artists, is scheduled fro around 2023. Sometime after the moon mission, SpaceX plans to send a series of manned and unmanned ships to Mars to establish a very early base.

Although the Starship has enough cargo space to eventually hold 100 people, Wooster explained over the weekend that these early missions would likely ferry a handful of people with a bias more toward cargo. That allows SpaceX to use existing technologies that have been demonstrated on the likes of the space station and Crew Dragon, increasing efficiency over time.

Once the first humans have established a propellant depot and basic life support systems, the team can start building out multiple cities. These cities could then support scientific research, act as an outpost and support third-party projects when needed. Wooster explained at last year's Mars Society Convention how this may work in practice:

SpaceX has said relatively little about its plans for the moon, instead focusing on its long-term goals for Mars. Musk did note earlier this month that a major challenge for a lunar base may be finding the carbon to create a propellant depot like on Mars.

With NASA aiming to establish a base on the moon within five years' time, an Ad Astra-style permanent settlement may not be too unreasonable. As the Starship was built with these multiple missions in mind, it could play a role in any further developments as they arise.

"The idea would be to expand out, start off not just with an outpost, but grow into a larger base, not just like there are in Antarctica, but really a village, a town, growing into a city and then multiple cities on Mars."

SpaceX has said relatively little about its plans for the moon, instead focusing on its long-term goals for Mars. Musk did note earlier this month that a major challenge for a lunar base may be finding the carbon to create a propellant depot like on Mars.

With NASA aiming to establish a base on the moon within five years' time, an Ad Astra-style permanent settlement may not be too unreasonable. As the Starship was built with these multiple missions in mind, it could play a role in any further developments as they arise.


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

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