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Arp220 is a nearby Ultraluminous Infrared Galaxy similar to what ALESS65 would look like if it were closer to Earth. Arp220 is a nearby Ultraluminous Infrared Galaxy similar to what ALESS65 would look like if it were closer to Earth. NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration, and A. Evans (University of Virginia, Charlottesville/NRAO/Stony Brook University)

Red and dead future for a galaxy running out of star fuel

A galaxy more than 12 billion light years from Earth is heading for a “red and dead” future because it is running out of the fuel needed to make new stars. The galaxy, known as ALESS65, is an ultra-luminous…
Three of the dishes used by the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder telescope. Three of the dishes used by the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder telescope. CSIRO/Terrace Photographers

The first images from ASKAP reveal slices through space

The first images from Australia’s Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope have given scientists a sneak peek at the potential images to come from the much larger Square Kilometre Array (SKA…
There’s a lot of dust between us and the edge of the universe. There’s a lot of dust between us and the edge of the universe. H Raab/Flickr

Has dust clouded the discovery of gravitational waves?

It’s almost three months since a team of scientists announced it had detected polarised light from the afterglow of the Big Bang. But questions are still being asked about whether cosmic dust may have…
The origin of today’s burst of energy has astronomers puzzled. The origin of today’s burst of energy has astronomers puzzled. AP Photographie /Flickr

Heavens above! What made the cosmic flash that lit Earth today?

A titanic eruption in our neighbouring galaxy, Andromeda, has sent shockwaves through the astronomical community here on Earth. NASA’s Swift satellite detected a flood of gamma rays at 21:15 UTC yesterday…
Earth was treated to a magnificent show during the Perseid meteor shower in 2010. Will the northern hemisphere get a similar show with the Camelopardalis shower on Saturday? Earth was treated to a magnificent show during the Perseid meteor shower in 2010. Will the northern hemisphere get a similar show with the Camelopardalis shower on Saturday? ESO/S. Guisard

A night’s tale: will a new meteor shower light up northern skies?

Across North America, Europe and Japan, skywatchers will be out in force this weekend with high hopes of catching a never-before-seen meteor shower. Predicted to peak this Saturday, May 24, the shower…
The strongest magnets in the universe – but how does a magnetar form? (Artist’s impression of magnetar in the cluster Westerlund 1.) The strongest magnets in the universe – but how does a magnetar form? (Artist’s impression of magnetar in the cluster Westerlund 1.) ESO/L. Calçada

A rare magnetic star is born – with a push in the right direction

Magnetars are stars that are incredibly dense, rapidly spinning, amazingly hot and – as their name suggests – are the most magnetic objects known in the universe. The magnetic field on the surface of a…
Now you see it – and now you don’t. Now you see it – and now you don’t. Christina L. F./ Flickr

Bright Saturn will blink out across Australia – for an hour, anyway

Everyone’s favourite ringed planet – the magnificent Saturn – is well worth some extra attention in the coming days. Tomorrow night, it reaches opposition, shining at its very best and brightest, directly…
We’ve stellar astronomy research programmes and need to keep them up. We’ve stellar astronomy research programmes and need to keep them up. Flickr/xJason.Rogersx (image cropped)

To reach for the stars, Australia must focus on astronomy

AUSTRALIA 2025: How will science address the challenges of the future? In collaboration with Australia’s chief scientist Ian Chubb, we’re asking how each science discipline will contribute to Australia…
Beta Pictoris b spins faster than the fastest spinning planet in our solar system. Beta Pictoris b spins faster than the fastest spinning planet in our solar system. ESO/L. Calçada & N. Risinger (skysurvey.org)

A different spin – exoplanet’s ‘day’ is measured for the first time

Over the past two decades, almost 1,500 exoplanets have been discovered orbiting distant stars – but Dutch astronomers have determined for the very first time just how fast one of those exoplanets is spinning…
A solar eclipse as seen in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2012 – similar to what many Australians will see this afternoon (weather permitting, of course). A solar eclipse as seen in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2012 – similar to what many Australians will see this afternoon (weather permitting, of course). Robert Adams/Flickr

Catch the sun: are you ready for a partial solar eclipse today?

Due to a rare alignment of events, many Australians will today experience a second eclipse this month. A partial solar eclipse will be visible from across Australia later this afternoon, following the…
Let’s hope it’s barren. Let’s hope it’s barren. NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-CalTech

Habitable exoplanets are bad news for humanity

Last week, scientists announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, a planet 492 light years away in the Cygnus constellation. Kepler-186f is special because it marks the first planet almost exactly the same…
A single Lyrids meteor captured during last year’s shower. A single Lyrids meteor captured during last year’s shower. Flickr/Mike Lewinski

The Lyrids meteor shower should put on a show overnight

If you’re willing to rise early tomorrow morning then there’s the chance to see a meteor shower, known as the Lyrids, which may been responsible for a bright light seen recently over Russia. A dashcam…
The Automated Planet Finder is hunting planets all by itself. The Automated Planet Finder is hunting planets all by itself. Laurie Hatch

Telescope apps help amateurs hunt for exoplanets

People around the world are being invited to learn how to hunt for planets, using two new online apps devised by scientists at the University of Texas at Austin and UC Santa Cruz. The apps use data from…
The Large Magellanic Cloud (right) visible in the southern sky is a nearby galaxy to our own. The Large Magellanic Cloud (right) visible in the southern sky is a nearby galaxy to our own. Flickr/Tracey Harrison Hill

Darwin meets Newton: evolution and the mass of the galaxy

If the solution to a problem does not reveal itself straight away then why not let your initial guesswork evolve? That’s the approach we’ve taken in trying to determine the mass of our galaxy by mapping…
The Gemini South telescope – pictured here – houses the latest gear to hunt down and snap photos of exoplanets. The Gemini South telescope – pictured here – houses the latest gear to hunt down and snap photos of exoplanets. Gemini Observatory

Gemini Planet Imager – a new eye to scan the sky for exoplanets

There is excitement in astronomy and planetary science departments worldwide as the new Gemini Planet Imager, housed in the Gemini South Telescope in the Chilean Andes, turns its razor-sharp gaze to the…
Sir David Gill, the most important astronomer you’ve never heard of? Sir David Gill, the most important astronomer you’ve never heard of? Uncredited via Wikimedia Commons

Sir David Gill – Scotland’s most notable astronomer?

There have been 10 astronomers royal for Scotland since the honour was created in 1834, only three of whom were Scots. I believe Aberdonian Sir David Gill (1843-1914), who never held the honour, trumps…
Artist’s impression of a microquasar, such as the newly-discovered MQ1 in the M83 galaxy. Artist’s impression of a microquasar, such as the newly-discovered MQ1 in the M83 galaxy. TD Russell (ICRAR-Curtin) using the BINSIM visualisation code by R Hynes (LSU)

Pocket rocket of the universe: a new ‘fast and furious’ black hole

A black hole with extremely powerful jets has been found in the nearby galaxy Messier 83 (M83) by a team of Australian and American researchers, as we report in the journal Science today. Black holes are…
The oldest star is out there somewhere. But which one is it? The oldest star is out there somewhere. But which one is it? www.shutterstock.com

The oldest star in the universe? Maybe, maybe not!

There is a myth that goldfish have a three-second memory, and I sometimes wonder if the same is true about the part of the human mind that deals with science in the news. This week, the international media…
An explosion in the universe (artist’s impression). An explosion in the universe (artist’s impression). www.shutterstock.com

The oldest star discovery tells much about the early universe

The discovery of an ancient star formed approximately 13.6-billion years ago just after the Big Bang is telling us much about the early universe. The star – designated SMSS J031300.36-670839.3 – lies within…
UNSW engineer Nic Bingham at a refueling stop half way between South Pole and Ridge A, January 2013. UNSW engineer Nic Bingham at a refueling stop half way between South Pole and Ridge A, January 2013. Geoff Sims

Building a telescope in the coldest place on Earth

Russia’s Vostok station in Antarctica must be one of the scariest places on Earth. Temperatures regularly drop below -80C, and there is no way in or out for nine months of the year. The inhabitants become…
It may not look like much from here, but Nova Centauri 2013 - visible for the next few days - is a nuclear explosion on a dead star. It may not look like much from here, but Nova Centauri 2013 - visible for the next few days - is a nuclear explosion on a dead star. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Centre

Up in the sky: it’s a nuclear explosion!

If you live in the southern hemisphere, you now can safely view the aftermath of a nuclear explosion from the comfort of your own backyard. Just last week a new “star”, Nova Centauri 2013, was discovered…
The delicate twinkling stars in the night sky are actually fusion-fuelled balls of gas. The delicate twinkling stars in the night sky are actually fusion-fuelled balls of gas. Adam Foster | Codefor

Explainer: what are stars?

Twinkle, twinkle, little star, how I wonder what you are. If we look up at the sky at night, we see millions of tiny diamond-like stars. These are actually balls of plasma (very hot gas) consisting of…
New research shows supermassive black holes are bigger than the sum of their parts. New research shows supermassive black holes are bigger than the sum of their parts. NASA/CXC/A.Hobart

When galaxies collide: the growth of supermassive black holes

Galaxies may look pretty and delicate, with their swirls of stars of many colours - but don’t be fooled. At the heart of every galaxy lies a supermassive black hole, including in our own Milky Way. Black…
Rocky, water-rich asteroids and similar objects likely delivered the bulk of water on Earth. Now they’re being found well outside our Solar system. Rocky, water-rich asteroids and similar objects likely delivered the bulk of water on Earth. Now they’re being found well outside our Solar system. Mark A. Garlick, space-art.co.uk, University of Warwick and University of Cambridge

Watery asteroid gobbled up by a white dwarf: implications for life

How will future alien scientists know whether life existed in our solar system? One method may be to sift through the planetary debris left when our sun becomes a white dwarf. Astronomers are doing just…
Two golden records, on their way out of our solar system, carry Australian Aboriginal music – but what’s the real story behind the recording? Two golden records, on their way out of our solar system, carry Australian Aboriginal music – but what’s the real story behind the recording? x-ray delta one

Beyond the morning star: the real tale of Voyagers' Aboriginal music

Earlier this year, NASA spacecraft Voyager 1 left our solar system after a 35-year journey, carrying with it a golden record containing sounds, images and music from Earth. Its sister craft, Voyager 2…
Complicated, but not as complicated as us. Complicated, but not as complicated as us. NASA

To be effective citizens, we all need a feel for science

Science isn’t just for scientists. It’s not just a training for careers. Today’s young people – all of them – will live in a world, ever more dependent on technology, and ever more vulnerable to its failures…
If gas clouds collided to create big stars, they might look like this during the collision. This is the RCW120 Spitzer Bubble. If gas clouds collided to create big stars, they might look like this during the collision. This is the RCW120 Spitzer Bubble. NASA

Milky Way’s biggest star may have had a different beginning

The current theory of star formation has a problem: it cannot make big stars. In the standard star-making recipe, stars are formed in the depths of gas clouds made from molecular hydrogen. These clouds…
The nearest stars to Earth – apart from the sun – are more than 4x1013 kilometres away. The nearest stars to Earth – apart from the sun – are more than 4x1013 kilometres away. Stinger_Y_Y

Explainer: light-years and units for the stars

Space is Big. Really Big. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy pretty much nailed space with those five words. And space is so really big that our earthly measures of distance struggle. The distance to…
Star clusters with an intermediate mass and large size were not known – until now. Star clusters with an intermediate mass and large size were not known – until now. Ani-Bee

Mind the gap: filling in the missing pieces for star clusters

My colleagues and I have confirmed the existence of a new type of star cluster – as published recently in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. But what are star clusters, and why do they…
Name an exoplanet, you don’t need to be a scientist for that. Name an exoplanet, you don’t need to be a scientist for that. UCL Mathematical and Physical Sciences

Explainer: what is citizen science?

Public participation in science is increasing, and citizen science has a central part in this. It is a contribution by the public to research, actively undertaken and requiring thoughtful action. Citizen…
Two of Kepler’s four reaction wheels have stopped working, which may mean the end for the spacecraft. Two of Kepler’s four reaction wheels have stopped working, which may mean the end for the spacecraft. NASA/Kepler mission/Wendy Stenzel

The end of Kepler? That would be universally bad

As I write this, engineers at NASA and Ball Aerospace & Technologies have their fingers crossed they’ll be able to restart the stricken Kepler space observatory, which has been in hibernation mode…
Torres Strait Islanders use constellations, such as the shark ‘Baidam’ pictured here, for practical purposes. Torres Strait Islanders use constellations, such as the shark ‘Baidam’ pictured here, for practical purposes. Brian Robinson

A shark in the stars: astronomy and culture in the Torres Strait

Technology has, without doubt, expanded our understanding of space. The Voyager 1 space probe is on the brink of leaving our solar system. Massive telescopes have discovered blasts of fast radio bursts…
Artist’s composite of the CSIRO’s 64m Parkes Radio Telescope showing an extragalactic radio burst appearing briefly, far from the Milky Way’s disk. Artist’s composite of the CSIRO’s 64m Parkes Radio Telescope showing an extragalactic radio burst appearing briefly, far from the Milky Way’s disk. CSIRO/Harvard/Swinburne Astronomy Productions

Fast Radio Bursts: new intergalactic messengers

How many electrons are there in the universe? That may seem nigh on impossible to calculate - let alone comprehend - but the discovery of a new population of astrophysical events called Fast Radio Bursts…
A new study shows only 30% of stars in a globular cluster will reach old age and become planetary nebulae. A new study shows only 30% of stars in a globular cluster will reach old age and become planetary nebulae. NASA

A stellar mid-life crisis: why do some cluster stars die early?

It was written in the stars all along, but we’ve just found out: a whopping 70% of stars in a widely-studied cluster die before reaching old age which, for stars, is the most productive stage of their…
The International Space Station after undocking from the now-retired Endeavour space shuttle. The International Space Station after undocking from the now-retired Endeavour space shuttle. NASA

Explainer: the International Space Station

As the most visible man-made object in the night sky the International Space Station (ISS) is of significance to humankind. It takes humans from being explorers of space to being residents of space. The…
Astronaut Buzz Aldrin and his colleagues on the Apollo 11 mission inspired generations to be interested in lunar exploration. Astronaut Buzz Aldrin and his colleagues on the Apollo 11 mission inspired generations to be interested in lunar exploration. EPA/NASA

Satellite of love: our on-off relationship with the moon

Like all relationships, our association with the moon has had its ups and downs. In this series we’ve talked about the nature of the satellite and how we think it was formed - in a giant collision that…
How does the moon affect Earth’s inhabitants? How does the moon affect Earth’s inhabitants? shutterstock.com

With or without you: the role of the moon on life

From encouraging the first steps of life migrating from the oceans to the land, to stabilising Earth’s axial tilt against chaotic excursions, the moon is often put forth almost as a magical ingredient…
A handout aerial image released by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service on 14 January 2013 shows the partly destroyed Siding Spring Observatory in the Warrumbungle National Park near Coonabarabran in New South Wales. A handout aerial image released by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service on 14 January 2013 shows the partly destroyed Siding Spring Observatory in the Warrumbungle National Park near Coonabarabran in New South Wales. EPA/NSW Rural Fire Service

Smoke damage to four buildings housing telescopes at observatory

Four buildings containing telescopes at Australia’s largest astronomical observatory have suffered smoke damage in a bushfire, the Australian National University said today. Access to the Siding Spring…
The SKA is on the horizon, but how do we get from here to there? The SKA is on the horizon, but how do we get from here to there? Pete Wheeler, ICRAR

Aspiration vs delivery: the long road to the Square Kilometre Array

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope has been on the cards since the early 1990s. It took until May of last year to find out where it will be built – in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand…
It’s long been suspected that Mercury’s poles are home to water ice. That speculation has now been confirmed. It’s long been suspected that Mercury’s poles are home to water ice. That speculation has now been confirmed. NASA

Water ice found on Mercury – has the ‘heavy metal’ planet lost its edge?

Whenever I’m telling students or people at conferences about Mercury, I always describe it as the “heavy metal” planet. Many things on this closest planet to the sun are extreme, from its 88-Earth-day…
A total solar eclipse allows us to see the sun’s normally invisible corona. A total solar eclipse allows us to see the sun’s normally invisible corona. Tarique Sani

Darkness after dawn: north-east Australia set for solar eclipse

Shortly after sunrise tomorrow morning the skies will go dark in northern Queensland. Many people, including myself and plenty from overseas, are flocking to Cairns to observe this celestial phenomenon…
The explosion of a super-luminous supernovae can emit as much light as our sun will in 10 billion years. The explosion of a super-luminous supernovae can emit as much light as our sun will in 10 billion years. Rampant.Gaffer

Super-luminous supernovae: seriously worth the superlatives

Supernovae are the brilliant, explosive deaths of stars. For a short time, these explosions can outshine an entire galaxy containing billions of stars. A recently discovered rare class of supernovae, termed…
Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to our own sun and appears to be home to at least one planet. Alpha Centauri is the closest star system to our own sun and appears to be home to at least one planet. EPA/Davide De Martin/ESO

Alpha Centauri exoplanet is the closest ever – how was it found?

Earlier this week, a Swiss-based team searching for planets outside our solar system (exoplanets) published a paper in Nature announcing the detection of an Earth-mass planet orbiting the star Alpha Centauri…
ASKAP will help scientists to tackle some of the biggest questions in radio astronomy. ASKAP will help scientists to tackle some of the biggest questions in radio astronomy. Alex Cherney

CSIRO launches the ASKAP telescope – and a new chapter for radio astronomy begins

Today, after several years of design and construction, CSIRO’s Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) is officially open. The A$140m facility, built in the remote Murchison Shire of Western…
Things may not be as they’d previously seemed regarding the moon’s formation. Things may not be as they’d previously seemed regarding the moon’s formation. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Was the moon formed by a planetary hit-and-run?

New research published in the planetary science journal Icarus, shows the moon may have been formed by a glancing collision with an “impactor” in the violent days of the early solar system. Contrary to…
What surprises are beyond the horizon for NASA’s spacecraft during its planned encounter with Pluto and its moon, Charon? What surprises are beyond the horizon for NASA’s spacecraft during its planned encounter with Pluto and its moon, Charon? NASA

New Horizons: Pluto’s latest moon sets the stage for NASA’s mission

Last week, scientists using one of the Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Cameras announced the discovery of a small moon orbiting the dwarf planet Pluto - the fifth satellite discovered in orbit around…
There’s far more to the night sky than the human eye can see. There’s far more to the night sky than the human eye can see. Joseph Dsilva

Explainer: radio astronomy

Humans have always had a deep affinity with the night sky. Over millennia the stars have guided us in our travels, provided a grand canvas for the great stories of mythology and invoked a sense of wonder…
The transit, as seen from Sydney today. The transit, as seen from Sydney today. Geoffrey Wyatt/AAP

Transit of Venus: you’ve got to see this

Update: to observers on Australia’s eastern seaboard, the transit of Venus is now complete. The two time-lapse videos below, provided by the University of Queensland, show Venus first passing in front…
Guillaume Le Gentil sailed the seas for many years to catch a glimpse of Venus in transit. Guillaume Le Gentil sailed the seas for many years to catch a glimpse of Venus in transit. Brocken Inaglory

Transit of Venus: a tale of two expeditions

On Wednesday, as you’ll no doubt know by now, a rare celestial event will occur. Venus will pass between the earth and the sun - the transit of Venus. You might also already know that this cosmic spectacle…
Don’t look at the transit of Venus directly … but make sure you look at it. Don’t look at the transit of Venus directly … but make sure you look at it. Jan Herold

Transit of Venus: a must-see for everyone … no seriously

When Australia II won the America’s Cup yacht race in 1983, then-prime-minister Bob Hawke famously exclaimed: “Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up today is a bum.” Taking inspiration from this…
Everyone’s getting a slice of the SKA, whichever way you cut it. Everyone’s getting a slice of the SKA, whichever way you cut it. swishphotos

Science vs politics in the SKA decision: the winner was …

Late last week, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) board chairman, John Womersley, announced that the future telescope will have more than one home: Australia/New Zealand and South Africa. The announcement…
Trojans such as (1173) Anchises appear to have been caught in Jupiter’s orbit, mid-flight. Trojans such as (1173) Anchises appear to have been caught in Jupiter’s orbit, mid-flight. Dave Hosford

By Jupiter: the gas giant’s Trojans were captured, not pre-formed

You’ll remember that, about a year ago, Canadian astronomers announced the discovery of a small asteroid sharing the earth’s orbit. The asteroid in question, 2010 TK7, is a “planetary Trojan” – an object…
An artist’s conception of the Square Kilometre Array … which could live in South Africa or Australia/New Zealand. An artist’s conception of the Square Kilometre Array … which could live in South Africa or Australia/New Zealand. SKA

The SKA decision has been delayed … so what are the judges looking for?

The battle for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope is heating up. The SKA board was scheduled to choose a site – South Africa or Australia and New Zealand – earlier this year but a decision…
The James Webb Space Telescope will search for stars in the dawning universe. The James Webb Space Telescope will search for stars in the dawning universe. BOBXNC

Hubble, Webb and the search for First Light galaxies

When the Obama administration announced its proposed NASA budget in February, astronomers worldwide breathed a sigh of relief. Despite significant cuts in other areas, funding for the James Webb Space…
GRBs have puzzled astronomers for decades, and there is still plenty to learn. GRBs have puzzled astronomers for decades, and there is still plenty to learn. EOS/A Roquette

Flash, aah-aah! Could a gamma ray burst eradicate all life on Earth?

Ever since they were discovered accidentally in the 1960s, gamma ray bursts (GRBs) have continued to amaze and puzzle astronomers worldwide. In nearly 50 years of research there seem to have been more…
New infrastructure is putting the Australian space industry on the map. New infrastructure is putting the Australian space industry on the map. RSAA

Australia in space: looking out and looking in

Space exploration is one of the few science-rich human endeavours that captivates both expert and layperson alike. There is a mystery – a romanticism – associated with space research and technology that…
Two “new” black holes, in relatively nearby galaxies, are the largest ever found. Two “new” black holes, in relatively nearby galaxies, are the largest ever found. tsand

Scary monsters (and supermassive black holes)

Black holes have long been the staple of science fiction, being monstrous beasts with a gravitational pull that prevents even light from escaping. As well as being useful plot devices, offering mechanisms…
If the signs are right, fundamental equations of cosmology may need altering. If the signs are right, fundamental equations of cosmology may need altering. waljoris

Is life on Earth due to a quirk in the laws of physics?

A radical discovery by my colleagues and I – reported this week in Physical Review Letters – could help explain why it was possible for life (at least as we know it) to develop on Earth, but not in other…
We know the universe is vast, but how do we measure the distances between things? We know the universe is vast, but how do we measure the distances between things? Dave Scrimshaw.

How far away is everybody? Climbing the cosmic distance ladder

Let’s talk numbers for a moment. The moon is approximately 384,000 kilometres away, and the sun is approximately 150 million kilometres away. The mean distance between Earth and the sun is known as the…
Finding quasars will help us understand how galaxies were formed. Finding quasars will help us understand how galaxies were formed. NASA

Back to where we started: tracing the origins of galaxies

Today, the University of Melbourne’s Professor Stuart Wyithe was awarded the 2011 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year for his work on the origin of galaxies. The multi-award winning…
Stars are immense, but the space between them is truly phenomenal. Stars are immense, but the space between them is truly phenomenal. chefranden

Long way to the chemist’s: a rough guide to distances in the universe

“Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.” Douglas Adams…
Science follows certain procedures, but does the media get the signal? Science follows certain procedures, but does the media get the signal? CSIRO

Diamond planets, climate change and the scientific method

Recently my colleagues and I announced the discovery of a remarkable planet orbiting a special kind of star known as a pulsar. Based on the planet’s density, and the likely history of its system, we concluded…
Stars shine, for sure, but PSR J1719-1438 is sporting some serious bling. Stars shine, for sure, but PSR J1719-1438 is sporting some serious bling. Robyn Beck/AFP

Diamond planet found (if you like it then you should have put a ring on it)

A planet has been found in our Milky Way galaxy that may be made entirely of diamond. As reported in Science today, an international astronomy team led by Swinburne University’s Matthew Bailes, has discovered…
Warning: you may struggle to believe what you’re about to read. Warning: you may struggle to believe what you’re about to read. Bluedharma

They might be giants: a mind-blowing sense of stellar scale

Just how big are the stars? Earth feels quite big, what with it taking an entire day to fly between Sydney and London, and clearly the sun and moon are quite large in the sky. But with virtually everything…
We may finally have an answer to a long-standing cosmic/ cosmetic issue. We may finally have an answer to a long-standing cosmic/ cosmetic issue. NASA

Was our two-faced moon in a small collision?

As of today, we have a cataclysmic new explanation for one of solar system astronomy’s most long-standing questions: why do the near- and far-sides of the Moon look so different? This new theory, published…
The vertical motion of the asteroid (in green) relative to Earth over several years. The vertical motion of the asteroid (in green) relative to Earth over several years. Paul Wiegert, University of Western Ontario

Earth’s first Trojan found – say hello to our little friend

This morning, the discovery of Earth’s first Trojan companion was announced by a group of Canadian astronomers. The object in question, 2010 TK7, is a lump of rock just a few hundred metres across, and…
We still have plenty to learn about our own galaxy. We still have plenty to learn about our own galaxy. Doug Klembara

If I had a blank cheque I’d … trace the history of the Milky Way

Welcome to the third instalment of If I had a blank cheque … a series in which leading researchers reveal what they could (and would) do in their discipline if money were no object. Today we hear from…
Has NASA’s 30-year space experiment been worth it? Has NASA’s 30-year space experiment been worth it? EPA/NASA TV

The final countdown: bidding farewell to the Space Shuttle program

All going well, the final Space Shuttle mission will be launched from the Kennedy Space Centre early on Saturday morning (AEST). This flight, being made by the Space Shuttle Atlantis, will be the 135th…
A computer-generated artists impression of the thousands of objects in orbit around Earth. A computer-generated artists impression of the thousands of objects in orbit around Earth. AFP

Space junk and the environment: it’s a very dark picture indeed

Since the launch of the first artificial satellite in 1957 – the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1 – countries around the world have been putting satellites and spacecraft into Earth orbit. While the majority of…
Is that a planet, a galaxy or a Rosetta Stone? Is that a planet, a galaxy or a Rosetta Stone? ichewmylips

The Astronomer’s Holy Grail

A vital part of professional astronomy is collecting data using large telescopes. In many cases, these telescopes are national or international facilities, with time available to all through a competitive…
When a black hole devours a nearby star, bright gamma-ray flashes can result. When a black hole devours a nearby star, bright gamma-ray flashes can result. Mark Garlick (University of Warwick)

Death of a star: how radio waves can capture a cosmic obituary

Some 3.8 billion years ago a star in the constellation of Draco wandered a little too close to a nearby black hole. The star was violently torn apart by the black hole’s tidal forces, creating two massive…
Despite centuries of study and folklore, we’re still not over the moon. Despite centuries of study and folklore, we’re still not over the moon. ~BostonBill~

Chile volcano could turn tomorrow’s lunar eclipse red

What do Chile’s recent volcanic eruptions and tomorrow morning’s total lunar eclipse have in common? Well … Just before sunrise, Earth’s shadow will totally hide the normally-bright moon for about 100…
Theories suggesting lunar influence on earthquakes have serious cracks. Theories suggesting lunar influence on earthquakes have serious cracks. penguinbush

Lunar eclipse prompts lunatic quips but is not going to rock your world

With a total lunar eclipse set to occur just before sunrise (AEST) on Thursday, we can expect to see certain views regurgitated about our moon. Our satellite has been the focus of speculation and folklore…
What tasty treats await astronomers in the next few decades? What tasty treats await astronomers in the next few decades? Lea/Flickr

An eye to the future of astronomy … a cosmic pick ‘n’ mix

Predicting the future is a mug’s game. When I reflect back on what we thought we knew at the start of my research career in the mid-1990s, I sound like a wizened octogenarian, recalling a simpler time…
You wouldn’t believe what modern telescopes can do. You wouldn’t believe what modern telescopes can do. Professor Fumolatro/Flickr

Will we ever see the Big Bang?

Last week, scientists set a new distance record, seeing a burst of gamma-rays from a star that exploded when the universe was only 520 million years old. The light from this distant source has been travelling…
The universe teems with energy and matter we don’t understand. The universe teems with energy and matter we don’t understand. stuant63/Flickr

Adventures in the dark side of cosmology

In questioning the fundamental nature of the universe, cosmology regularly grabs the public’s attention. But in an era in which we are observing deeper and more widely than ever before, our knowledge of…
Is it a plane? No, it’s Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics. Is it a plane? No, it’s Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics. William West/AFP

Superman returns – but who’s looking after his water?

Watching films such as Superman Returns or The Day after Tomorrow, you would have seen dramatic sequences of surging water and crumbling buildings. While doing so, mathematics was probably the last thing…
Is your stress from Venus, your pressure from Mars? Not likely. Is your stress from Venus, your pressure from Mars? Not likely.

Altered mind this morning? Hehe, just blame the planets

Today, and for the next month, four major planets are aligned above us: Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter. Are we interested? Of course we are. From the very beginning of human history we’ve been obsessed…
There’s something happening, but it’s way above your head. There’s something happening, but it’s way above your head. bluedharma/Flickr

Look out, world, the planets are aligning

Four planets – Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Venus – will be aligned at dawn tomorrow. What does this mean? Should we be running for the hills? You’d be forgiven for thinking so. A search on Google or YouTube…
Scientists believe dark matter makes up 23% of the universe. Scientists believe dark matter makes up 23% of the universe. NASA

New chatter on dark matter

Dark matter has worked its way back into the news in the last few days with the completion of a detection experiment in a tunnel deep under the Italian Alps. Researchers from Columbia University used a…
Are CSIRO’s ASKAP antennas in Boolardy a precursor to greater things? Are CSIRO’s ASKAP antennas in Boolardy a precursor to greater things? By Ant Schinckel, CSIRO

Hip hip hooray for the (Aussie?) Square Kilometre Array

We know a lot about what the universe looks like and how it works. But what we’ve been able to figure out about the cosmos is dwarfed by all the things we don’t know. How do galaxies, stars and planets…
Viewed from afar, the Milky Way might appear similar to the galaxy known as NGC 7331. Viewed from afar, the Milky Way might appear similar to the galaxy known as NGC 7331. R. Jay GaBany/NASA

Explainer: a beginner’s guide to the galaxy

Where are we within our galaxy? How did our galaxy form? How did it evolve over the aeons? Astronomers have been asking these questions for the past century, and have recently begun discerning the answers…
Hundreds of exoplanets have been discovered, but are we any closer to finding life? Hundreds of exoplanets have been discovered, but are we any closer to finding life? AAP

Exoplanets: how the search for life became sexy

In the late 1980s, when I was a young whipper-snapper just starting out as an astronomer, it was quite obvious some fields had an incredibly high profile and others were outré. The sexy ideas at the time…

Research and News (23)

Research Briefs (40)

Faster spinning galaxies are flat, not fat

The speed at which spiral galaxies spin determine whether they are fat and bulging or whether they are shaped like flat discs…

Vesta asteroid shown in new light

Images from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft have revealed unusual geological features on the surface of the asteroid Vesta, one of…

Dark matter core challenges theories

The collision of several, massive galaxy clusters has left behind a clump of dark matter, potentially challenging existing…

Milky Way may be brimming with nomads

Our galaxy may be teeming with so-called ‘nomad planets’, which travel through space rather than orbiting stars, according…

New alien planet could support life

Astronomers have discovered an alien planet which could be the best candidate yet for harbouring water and possibly life…

Superfast spinning star found

The star with the fastest rotation ever recorded has been discovered by researchers at the University of California, Santa…

Black hole jets revealed

The innermost parts of a black hole’s active jets have been revealed for the first time. The observation, by NASA scientists…

Seasonal flows on Mars could be salty water

Dark, finger-like features that appear and extend down some Martian slopes during the warmest months of the Mars year may…

Universe in a spin at Big Bang

An excess of counter-clockwise rotating, or “left-handed,” spiral galaxies have been found, providing evidence that the universe…

Black hole eats star

A bright flash of gamma rays in March may have been the result of a star the size of our sun falling into a massive black…

Spacemen’s hardening arteries

Exposure to cosmic radiation may be detrimental to astronauts’ arteries, according to a study by University of Alabama at…