Supernova observations of Aboriginal Australians

Aboriginal observations of new stars appearing in the sky are leading to new approaches in astrophysics research. Once every few hundred years, our skies are graced by the appearance of a brilliant new star. It can outshine the brightest objects in the sky before gradually fading from visibility over weeks to months. Western scientists call … Continue reading Supernova observations of Aboriginal Australians

Tanks for the space memories

Every day, the Earth is bombarded by gamma rays travelling all the way from the depths of space. These rays, in the form of photons, tell cosmic secrets about violent celestial events, such as stellar explosions or black-hole feasts. Now, researchers are setting up a new pilot project to detect the highest-energy gamma rays arriving … Continue reading Tanks for the space memories

Killer asteroids and stargazing

Fred Watson’s been a fixture of Australian astronomy for decades, perhaps best known for his work promoting and explaining science and astronomy on television, radio and through publications. In addition to a long career at the Australian Astronomical Observatory and now as astronomer-at-large for the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, he is the author … Continue reading Killer asteroids and stargazing

New insights into the Moon’s evolution

The Moon rocks from China’s Chang’e 5 lander have been analysed, adding to the story of the Moon’s thermal and chemical evolution. More than 50 years ago, the Apollo program brought 382 kilograms of lunar material back to Earth, including Moon rocks, core samples, pebbles, sand and dust. These samples gave us a glimpse of … Continue reading New insights into the Moon’s evolution

A planet with an atmosphere that vaporises rock?

October is planetary science month. That’s when the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences holds its annual meeting, with hundreds of researchers discussing planetary bodies large and small. Want the latest on the search for Planet 9? Here’s the place to find out. (Hint: nobody’s found it.) Wondering what counts as a planet? Forget … Continue reading A planet with an atmosphere that vaporises rock?

Planets that can vaporise rock (and other stories)

October is planetary science month. That’s when the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences holds its annual meeting, with hundreds of researchers discussing planetary bodies large and small. Want the latest on the search for Planet 9? Here’s the place to find out. (Hint: nobody’s found it.) Wondering what counts as a planet? Forget … Continue reading Planets that can vaporise rock (and other stories)

Explainer: when is an asteroid a comet?

The distinction between asteroids and comets used to be clear-cut. Comets were icy bodies that spent most of their time in the cold, dark, outer reaches of the Solar System but occasionally plunged toward the Sun on kamikaze dives that warmed them, vaporised their ices, and produced the dramatic tails we know and love. Asteroids … Continue reading Explainer: when is an asteroid a comet?

A winter’s tale (in the Kuiper belt)

Winter is coming on Pluto. And it is a winter, scientists say, unlike anything imaginable on Earth, a winter in which the dwarf planet’s entire atmosphere is expected to freeze out as frost, leaving it nearly as airless at the Moon. Not that Pluto has ever had a thick atmosphere. Its current surface pressure is … Continue reading A winter’s tale (in the Kuiper belt)

New class of exoplanet could put search for ET into hyper-drive

Astronomers have identified a new class of exoplanet they believe could be a candidate for the search for extra-terrestrial life, according to a new study in The Astrophysical Journal. Traditionally, the search for extra-terrestrial life has focused on the terrestrial: looking for other “Earths” with similar dimensions and conditions. The planets in question, however, dubbed … Continue reading New class of exoplanet could put search for ET into hyper-drive

Balloon-borne telescope to rival Hubble

An international team of astronomers has built a telescope that will be carried to the edge of space by a helium balloon, escaping the distorting effects of the atmosphere. This altitude will allow the telescope to be free of 99.5% of the Earth’s atmosphere, and thus capture exquisitely sharp images that astronomers say will rival … Continue reading Balloon-borne telescope to rival Hubble

Galactic fireworks go off

An international team of astronomers has snapped stunning images of “galactic fireworks”, capturing stellar nurseries as they give birth to new stars. These images focus on galaxies close to the Milky Way and show their different components in distinct colours, including the locations of clouds of gas and dust where infant stars are igniting. They … Continue reading Galactic fireworks go off