"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

 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!  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. THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO ASTRONOMY BONUS OFFER! ......Every order will automatically receive a copy of the E-Book everybody wants (Value $20) to their inbox * DETAILS HERE

Join astronomer Dave Reneke during 2022 on an amazing tour of our beautiful night skies - Norfolk Island is a Gold Level Dark Sky registered site. Norfolk Island proudly has little or no light pollution and boasts one of the darkest skies on Earth. 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. For further information contact the Norfolk Island Travel Centre.

Highlights Of Our 2021 Astronomy 'Fly/Drive' Tour Dec 6 - 13

Sessions through the week started with a warm Welcome Event to meet Dave and other travellers. Viewing via our 2 large 10" Dobsonian telescopes, binoculars for stargazing, a laser sky tours and more!

Our indoor Audio-Visual presentations included 'Secrets of the Universe' explaining the Universe using the latest NASA images and Apollo 11 The Untold Story, 50 moon landing facts you were never told about and never knew. Great Moon views and up close, planets, stars, nebula, we ran our popular laser guided sky, listened to Dave's indigenous Sky Stories, everyone held a real meteorite... and much more!

All Systems Still 'GO' For The James Web Telescope

NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is named for a former director of the American space agency (AFP/HO)
NASA's James Webb Space Telescope is named for a former director of the American space agency (AFP/HO)

Equipped with detectors sensitive to infrared or "heat radiation," the telescope will paint the universe in colors no human eye has ever seen. The expansion of the universe shifts the visible light from the earliest, most distant galaxies into the longer infrared wavelengths.

Studying the heat from these infant galaxies, astronomers say, could provide important clues to when and how the supermassive black holes that squat in the centers of galaxies form. Closer to home in the present, the telescope will sniff at the atmospheres of planets orbiting nearby stars, looking for the infrared signatures of elements and molecules associated with life, like oxygen and water.

The Webb will examine all of cosmic history, billions of years of it, astronomers say - from the first stars to life in the solar system. This week, the NASA administrator Bill Nelson called the telescope a "keyhole into the past." 

Huge asteroid will pass Earth safely January 18

Artistic illustration of an asteroid approaching Earth. Dieter Spannknebel / Getty Images
Artistic illustration of an asteroid approaching Earth. Dieter Spannknebel / Getty Images

A large stony asteroid will safely pass Earth on January 18, 2022. Its estimated size is around 3,280 feet (about 1 km or .6 of a mile), around 2 1/2 times the height of the Empire State Building. As you can see from this asteroid's label - (7482) 1994 PC1 - it's been known since 1994. 

It is classified as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid due to its size and relatively close known flybys of our planet. An asteroid of this size strikes Earth approximately every 600,000 years. But we have nothing to fear from 1994 PC1 at its 2022 close approach. And ... a plus ... amateur astronomers with backyard telescopes might catch a glimpse of it as it sweeps past.

Potentially hazardous asteroid 7482

Robert McNaught discovered asteroid (7482) 1994 PC1 at the Siding Spring Observatory in Australia on August 9, 1994. With its trajectory in hand, astronomers found the space rock on earlier images from other observations that date back to September 1974. With 47 years of observations, its orbit is well established.

Closest approach to Earth occurs on January 18, 2022, at 4:51 p.m. EST (21:51 UTC). This approach will be the closest for this asteroid for at least the next 200 years for which astronomers have calculated its orbit. The speeding asteroid will pass (1.93 million km from Earth, or about 5 times the Earth-moon distance. That's a very safe distance, yet close enough to observe easily with a small backyard telescope.

The huge space rock is traveling at 43,754 miles per hour (19.56 kilometers per second) relative to Earth. The considerable speed will enable amateur astronomers to spot the fast asteroid. It will appear as a point of light, similar to a star, passing in front of background stars over the course of the evening. Asteroid (7482) 1994 PC1 will shine at around magnitude 10. An object at 10th magnitude is a decent target for observers using a 6-inch or larger backyard telescope from a dark sky site.

Astronomers Spot an Exoplanet Shaped Like a Potato

An illustration of WASP-103b, a rugby ball-shaped world that orbits its host star in less than a day.Illustration: ESA
An illustration of WASP-103b, a rugby ball-shaped world that orbits its host star in less than a day.Illustration: ESA

A team of astronomers studying distant exoplanets found one that seems to be shaped like a potato-or a rugby ball, depending on your frame of reference-rather than the usual sphere. The team suspects the planet's shape is caused by the intense tidal forces of its host star.

The planet, discovered in 2014, is called WASP-103b and is about 1,530 light-years from Earth. It whips around its star in less than an Earth day and is a little more massive than Jupiter, as well as 20 times hotter. But unlike our local gas giant, this planet is oblong, as described in a paper recently published in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

"In principle we would expect a planet with 1.5 times the mass of Jupiter to be roughly the same size, so WASP-103b must be very inflated due to heating from its star and maybe other mechanisms," said lead author Susana Barros, an astrophysicist at the Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço and the University of Porto in Portugal, in an ESA release.

WASP-103b is what's called a hot Jupiter, which is a class of exoplanet characterized by similarities to our local gas giant. The recently analyzed planet isn't the first oddly shaped hot Jupiter: In 2019, a football-shaped world called WASP-121b was found to be leaking heavy metals.

But it was only recently that a team of astronomers scrutinized the exoplanet's transit light curve, or the way that it blocks out some of the star's light while passing in front of it from our perspective. The team studied WASP-103b's transit light curves using the CHaracterising ExOplanet Satellite (CHEOPS), a space telescope designed to study the structure of exoplanets. Combining CHEOPS data with data from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope, the team learned more about the shape of the distant world.

"It's incredible that Cheops was actually able to reveal this tiny deformation," said study co-author Jacques Laskar, an astrophysicist at the Université Paris Sciences et Lettres, in the ESA release. "This is the first time such analysis has been made, and we can hope that observing over a longer time interval will strengthen this observation and lead to better knowledge of the planet's internal structure."

Based on WASP-103b's transit light curve, the team determined how mass was distributed throughout the planet. They found the planet's internal structure appeared similar to Jupiter's, despite having twice the radius. They also determined that WASP-103b is close enough to its star that tidal forces deformed the would-be sphere into an ovoid shape.

The team noted that future observations of WASP-103b by the recently launched Webb Space Telescope could put better constraints on the radius of the planet. Webb is still on its way to its observation point in space, having successfully deployed its primary mirror this week.

We don't know why, but being in space causes us to destroy our blood

Space anemia is tied to being in the void and can stick around awhile.
Space anemia is tied to being in the void and can stick around awhile.

Space isn't easy on humans. Some aspects are avoidable-the vacuum, of course, and the cold, as well as some of the radiation. Astronauts can also lose bone density, thanks to a lack of gravity. NASA has even created a fun acronym for the issues: RIDGE, which stands for space radiation, isolation and confinement, distance from Earth, gravity fields, and hostile and closed environments.

New research adds to the worries by describing how being in space destroys your blood. Or rather, something about space-and we don't know what just yet-causes the human body to perform hemolysis at a higher rate than back on Earth.

This phenomenon, called space anemia, has been well-studied. It's part of a suite of problems that astronauts face when they come back to terra firma, which is how Guy Trudel-one of the paper's authors and a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation at The Ottawa Hospital-got involved. "[W]hen the astronauts return from space, they are very much like the patients we admit in rehab," he told Ars.

Space anemia had been viewed as an adaptation to shifting fluids in the astronauts' upper bodies when they first arrive in space. They rapidly lose 10 percent of the liquid in their blood vessels, and it was expected that their bodies destroyed a matching 10 percent of red blood cells to get things back into balance. People also suspected that things went back to normal after 10 days. Trudel and his team found, however, that the hemolysis was a primary response to being in space. "Our results were a bit of a surprise," he said.

In space, no one can hear you breathe into a can

To study space anemia, Trudel worked with 14 astronauts on a six-month stint on the International Space Station. The astronauts brought specialized canisters and exhaled into them at four set intervals: at five days, 12 days, three months, and just before heading home at six months. Then, with their primary mission over, they brought the canisters back down to Earth, breath and all.

Back in the lab, the researchers looked at the astronauts' breath using a high-resolution gas chromatograph, which measures the amount of carbon monoxide they were producing after different amounts of time in space. According to Trudel, carbon monoxide is created each time a red blood cell is hemolyzed in the body. This isn't a perfect connection, as other bodily processes can result in the production of carbon monoxide, like some functions of muscles and livers. However, Trudel noted that an estimated 85 percent of carbon monoxide produced by a human comes from hemolysis.

The team's results showed that in space, the astronauts' bodies destroyed around 3 million red blood cells every second. This is 54 percent higher than what happens in human bodies on Earth, where the rate is 2 million every second.

In space, the human body loses fluid, so even though an astronaut's body ends up with fewer red blood cells, the concentration stays at acceptable levels. But when a human returns to Earth, their bodies regain the fluid to cope with the increase in gravity, and space anemia kicks in. "You need more fluid in your blood vessels, and that will dilute your red blood cells," he said.

After the astronauts returned from their voyage, five out of 13 who had blood drawn upon landing were still clinically anemic. After three or four months, their red blood cell count continued to grow. However, Trudel's team performed the same test a year later and found that red blood cell destruction was still 30 percent higher in the astronauts. According to the researcher, the longer astronauts stay in space, the longer space anemia will plague them on solid land.

Astronomers Just Captured A Stunning Photo Of A Black Hole Erupting 

There's a lot we can learn from observing the black hole that sits at the center of that galaxy.
There's a lot we can learn from observing the black hole that sits at the center of that galaxy.

A breathtaking image of a supermassive black hole exploding over 12 million light-years from Earth has been caught by astronomers. The image depicts the radio emissions produced by the black hole's active feeding. The image, according to experts, is the size of 16 full Moons placed side by side.

The picture, according to the press release, is of a black hole in Centaurus A, a massive elliptical galaxy 12 million light-years away from Earth. According to astronomers, the black hole bursts as gas and other particles fall into it, feeding on the particles. The black hole's ejected "radio bubbles" then expand at nearly the speed of light. After that, the bubbles develop for hundreds of millions of years.

They took a picture of the black hole exploding from the Earth. When observed in this light, astronomers estimate that the eruption is the length of 16 full Moons lined up side by side. The Murchison Widefield Array (MWA) telescope in Western Australia was used to obtain this image.

Dr. Benjamin McKinley from Curtin University says the radio waves in the image are from all the particles the black hole is feeding on.

Image source: Ben McKinley, ICRAR/Curtin and Connor Matherne, Louisiana State University
Image source: Ben McKinley, ICRAR/Curtin and Connor Matherne, Louisiana State University

"It forms a disc around the blackhole, and as the matter gets ripped apart going close to the black hole, powerful jets form on either side of the disc, ejecting most of the material back out into space, to distances of probably more than a million light years," he said in the news release.

He also said that previously the observations they made couldn't handle the extreme brightness from the blackhole erupting. That caused the image to become distorted around the ejections. Now, though, this new image provides a deeper insight into the details around the eruption.

Dr. McKinley also said that because Centaurus A is so close to Earth, there's a lot we can learn from observing the black hole that sits at the center of that galaxy. Scientists can then use the research to further our knowledge of how black holes work, and how they continuously feed on the particles around them.

NASA running short of astronauts for space station, moon missions, report says

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei seen during a spacewalk conducted in 2017. (Image credit: NASA)
NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei seen during a spacewalk conducted in 2017. (Image credit: NASA)

NASA may need more astronauts to meet its human spaceflight goals over the coming years, according to a new report from the agency's investigative office.

Currently, NASA only flies astronauts to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsules and Russia's Soyuz vehicles. But the agency's ambitious Artemis program to return humans to the moon is set to change that, with the program's first crewed mission targeting 2024. That flight is meant to be the first stage in developing a long-term lunar exploration program that supports future human exploration of Mars.

As a result, NASA is looking at sending more astronauts off-Earth - perhaps more than the agency can expect to have available, according to a report from the Office of Investigator General released on Tuesday (Jan. 11) that evaluates how NASA manages its astronauts.

"After reaching its peak of nearly 150 astronauts in 2000, the size of the corps has diminished with the end of space shuttle missions in 2011 and now stands at 44, one of the smallest cadres of astronauts in the past 20 years," officials wrote in the report. "As NASA enters a new era of human space flight, including returning to the moon and eventually landing humans on Mars, effective management of its astronaut corps - the people who fly its space flight missions - is critical to the agency's success."

While flying on missions to space missions is perhaps the highlight of a NASA astronaut's duties, NASA also assigns astronauts roles like capsule communicators who relay information from mission control to space, as well as training new astronauts and speaking with the public about NASA's work.

Right now, NASA has the smallest astronaut corps since the crew slipped below 40 people in the 1970s. The current size of the corps is in part due to a surge in retirements - about 10 a year, according to the report - around 2011 when the agency grounded its fleet of space shuttles and flight opportunities starkly decreased.

After becoming a full-fledged astronaut, training for a space station mission requires an additional 18 to 24 months. 

How Australia's 1922 solar eclipse proved Einstein right

Ontario Picture Bureau/Wikimedia Commons
Ontario Picture Bureau/Wikimedia Commons

In 1922, Australia was even more remote from the rest of the world than it is today. But when it came to astronomy, that year it was the centre of everyone's attention.

On Sept. 21, the shadow of a total solar eclipse would cross the entire continent, from Eighty Mile Beach in Western Australia, right through the outback, and out over the Pacific Ocean just south of the Queensland-New South Wales border.

Astronomers came from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, India and Britain - journeying to places so remote that many Australians had never heard of them before their names started appearing in the press.

The scientists were there not just for the spectacle, but also in the hope their observations of the eclipse would validate Albert Einstein's then-controversial theory of general relativity, postulated just seven years earlier.

Einstein's theory, broadly speaking, suggested gravity can bend the very fabric of space-time itself. One possible way to test this was to photograph the background of stars both before and during an eclipse. The Sun's gravity should bend the light from the distant stars as it passes in front of them, causing them to appear in a slightly different position - and the eclipse would allow astronomers to make this observation by helpfully blotting out the Sun's glare.

War and weather

The first world war prevented astronomers from investigating Einstein's 1915 prediction. But a total solar eclipse on May 29 1919 offered the first decent chance to prove him right. Britain mounted two separate expeditions in the hope at least one of them could make the necessary observations. In Sobral, Brazil, the team led by Astronomer Royal Frank Dyson suffered equipment failure. But on the island of Principe off Africa's west coast, Arthur Eddington, despite inclement weather, successfully photographed the event.

Dyson, after viewing Eddington's photographic plates, pronounced "there can be no doubt that they confirm Einstein's prediction". But many sceptics remained unconvinced.

Map published in the Argus newspaper, showing the eclipse track.Argus, Author provided
Map published in the Argus newspaper, showing the eclipse track.Argus, Author provided

The next suitable eclipse was in Australia on Sept. 21 1922. The famous Lick Observatory in California had used its fine 12-metre camera to photograph several previous eclipses, and director William Wallace Campbell was determined his observatory would solve "the Einstein problem" in Australia.

Campbell's chosen location - Wallal, on the WA coast about 200 miles (320 kilometers) south of Broome, was remote and almost inaccessible. But it had virtually no chance of cloud, and the eclipse there would last longest, offering a full five minutes of totality.

Shallow seas meant the expedition's ships could not get close to shore, and instead had to ferry the equipment ashore at high tide with the help of local Indigenous people.

The Royal Australian Navy also played an essential role in transporting the heavy and delicate equipment to Wallal, where Campbell's group, which also included Canadian and New Zealand astronomers, had set up camp near the telegraph station.

Also at Wallal were astronomers from the Perth Observatory, the Kodiakanal Solar Observatory in India, and a smaller private British expedition. The various teams made several practice runs, knowing they would get just one chance at the eclipse itself.

Location of the eclipse observation site, viewed seaward. Left of the vehicle are remains of Wallal Telegraph Station, including a well.Brian Finlayson, Author provided

Afterwards, having spent months studying the huge photographic plates created during the eclipse, Campbell telegraphed Einstein to tell him the observations were indisputable. A remote corner of Australia had played a pivotal role in proving one of the fundamental truths of the universe.

Meanwhile, other astronomers and amateur enthusiasts right across Australia were turning their eyes heavenwards as the eclipse passed overhead. South Australia sent an expedition to Cordillo Downs in the state's northeast, led by Government Astronomer George Dodwell. His remote journey, laden with bulky equipment, was an undertaking of heroic proportions. Yet now, Cordillo Downs is chiefly known for its historic woolshed.

In the eastern states travel was somewhat easier, and many of the public gathered in Goondiwindi on the Queensland-NSW border to watch the eclipse. Scientist, businessman and philanthropist Sir Wilfrid Russell Grimwade organised a trip there from Melbourne; Sydney Observatory sent its astronomers; Sydney University mounted an expedition led by physicist Oscar Vonwiller that also included Father Edward Pigot, president of the NSW branch of the British Astronomical Association. Queensland's Governor, Sir Matthew Nathan, motored out for the event, and locals came from miles around.

Twenty of Pigot's fellow members of the British Astronomical Association opted to travel to nearby Stanthorpe, while special trains carried Brisbane residents to Sandgate for the viewing. The indefatigable scientist Reverend Skertchly travelled from Brisbane to Mount Tamborine, where he made many different observations and later described viewing the corona as an epiphany.

Time for recognition

Australians from all walks of life engaged with the eclipse. Wonderful photographic records exist of the event, as well as special brochures and copious newspaper coverage. Scientific enthusiasm was mingled with fun, bringing together not just astronomers but also schoolchildren, Indigenous peoples, outback camel drivers, and the wider community.

Yet, a century later, this extraordinary coming together of global and local people isn't very well documented in the places it happened. In Sept. 1972, Goondiwindi's citizens marked the golden jubilee of the eclipse, but we are not aware of any formal plans to mark its centenary this year.

At Wallal, which is close to a large and popular caravan park on Eighty Mile Beach, there is no mention of the momentous observations that helped prove Einstein's genius. Perhaps a commemorative plaque or installation there would be a fitting place to start.

Here are the top 5 events for backyard astronomers in 2022

Eclipses, conjunctions and a possible naked-eye comet highlight the new year
Eclipses, conjunctions and a possible naked-eye comet highlight the new year

2022 does not look to disappoint skywatchers in Central Florida, weather permitting that is! There are always noteworthy things to look up for on any given night, but these are the top events worth marking in your calendar as we venture through the new year.

A lot of these events on the list below happen in the spring when there is typically optimal weather for viewing.

Mars, Saturn Conjunction (April 4-5)

The ringed and red planets will get up close and personal in early April. Mars, Saturn Conjunction

The two planets will be at their closest to one another before sunrise on April 4 and again on April 5. Saturn will be the slightly brighter of the two while Mars will have its iconic red hue. Mars and Saturn will flip positions in the night sky April 5.

You can view this with the naked eye, but binoculars or a telescope will enhance the viewing experience.

A Brighter Conjunction

A lot of people became familiar with conjunctions back in 2021 when the Great Conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn was stealing headlines. This time around, Jupiter will hook up with the brightest planet in our sky, Venus. Conjunctions happen when two objects from our perspective get very close to each other in the night sky.

Jupiter and Venus will appear to nearly merge from our perspective. Look for this show about an hour before sunrise on the mornings of April 30 and May 1.

Five planets align in order (June 24)

My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas. You may remember this mnemonic from elementary school to remember the order of the planets in our solar system. Back in my day, Pluto was a planet, but that's a story for another time.

Our solar system. The Oort cloud, where comets are born resides 2,000 au from the sun, far beyond pluto. Earth is 1 au, astronomical unit from the sun.

In this case, you will only need to remember part of that saying. The five planets visible to the naked will be aligned, in order from the sun, before sunrise June 24.

Possible Naked-Eye Comet (Late April/Early May)

This will likely be the top event of 2022 if it comes to fruition. Comets are notoriously hard to forecast as they speed through space and interact with the sun. Anyway, one could grace the skies in late April or early May.

A dim body of frozen gas, rock and dust becomes vibrant when it gets closer to the sun. Much more will be known as it gets closer to Earth in the coming months. You will want to look up for this one as it will stay safely far away from our home.

Two Blood Moon Eclipses (May 15/16, Nov. 8)

It's about time! We got close in this part of the world last year as two nearly-total lunar eclipses were visible from Central Florida. Just a sliver went unmasked by the earth's shadow. This year, however, Central Florida will be treated to not only two total lunar eclipses, but long-lasting eclipses at that.

The last total lunar eclipse in Central Florida was January 2019.

The first total lunar eclipse will finally allow for viewing at night, rather than early in the morning. Totality, when the moon appears blood red, will begin at 11:29 p.m. and will last until 12:53 a.m.

The partial eclipse, when there appears to be a bite taken out of the moon, gets underway an hour earlier. The full eclipse ends at 1:55 a.m.

The second total lunar eclipse of the year happens in November before sunrise. This too will last for a long time, getting started at 4:09 a.m. and ending as the moon sets just before 7 a.m. The rest of the eclipse will happen below the horizon, not visible in Central Florida.

The next total lunar eclipse doesn't come around until 2025 so make sure you catch a glimpse of one of them.

There are many more fascinating things happening in the night sky in 2022 that aren't on this list, such as our annual meteor showers and other planetary conjunctions. We'll be sure to let you know when those events are coming to a backyard near you in the year ahead.

Here's to good weather and good viewing in 2022!


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

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