Measuring the Sun’s electric field

To the delight of solar physicists, the Parker Solar Probe is taking a page from the story of Icarus and flying too close to the Sun. Physicists led by the University of Iowa have made the first definitive measurements of our star’s electric field, based on observations made by the NASA probe as it flew … Continue reading Measuring the Sun’s electric field

Shining light on the Sun’s source of power

Scientists working with $AU60 million instrument in Italy have found a new class of neutrinos coming from the Sun that confirms, as has long been theorised, that the Sun burns its nuclear fuel via two different thermonuclear pathways.  “We have completed a chapter of physics which started more than 80 years ago,” says nuclear physicist Gioacchino … Continue reading Shining light on the Sun’s source of power

Playing detective on a galactic scale

An Australian-led team of “galactic archaeologists” has just released the largest set of stellar chemical data ever compiled, containing information from 600,000 stars. This new dataset will help astronomers solve many questions about the structure and evolution of the Milky Way, unravelling mysteries about star formation, chemical enrichment, migrations and galaxy mergers.  The 500GB of … Continue reading Playing detective on a galactic scale

Did Sun have an early binary companion?

In the early days of the Solar System, the Sun may have had a companion star, scientists say, making it part of a binary system like many others in the Milky Way galaxy. But this doesn’t mean the view from the infant Earth would have looked like that from Tatooine, the fictional planet that was … Continue reading Did Sun have an early binary companion?

Brown dwarfs that are doubly cool

Astronomers and citizen scientists have together discovered 95 of the coolest known brown dwarfs – objects more massive than planets but lighter than stars. Several have temperatures approaching that of the Earth, making them cool enough to harbour water clouds. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope provided the temperature estimates. The discoveries, made as part of the … Continue reading Brown dwarfs that are doubly cool

Giant exoplanets and a huge magnetic field

Here are two more images from space that have astronomers pretty excited. Above is a radio/optical composite image of the edge-on spiral galaxy NGC 4217 showing the huge and unexpected extent of its magnetic field, which provides more pieces to the puzzle of how magnetic structures form in galaxies such as our own. Below is … Continue reading Giant exoplanets and a huge magnetic field

SOHO keeps on doing the business

SOHO – the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory – doesn’t have quite the profile of the likes of Hubble and Spitzer, but we have two recent reminders of its value to science. First the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) announced that it had identified the 4000th comet discovered by SOHO since its launch in 1995: not … Continue reading SOHO keeps on doing the business

Sun is ‘less active’ than similar stars

The Sun is less magnetically active and shows less variability in its brightness than similar stars in the galaxy, scientists say.  To come to this conclusion, published in the journal Science, they analysed 369 candidate stars selected because they resemble the Sun in decisive properties.  “These stars appear nearly identical to the Sun except for their higher variability. Therefore, … Continue reading Sun is ‘less active’ than similar stars

SunRISE to learn more about the Sun

NASA has selected the mission that will study how the Sun generates and releases giant space weather storms – known as solar particle storms – into planetary space.  SunRISE (the Sun Radio Interferometer Space Experiment), which will be led by University of Michigan (UM) in Ann Arbor and managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, … Continue reading SunRISE to learn more about the Sun