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Astronomical News

Just seen this on Gogglebox.
The BBC invited an astronomer on to discuss the recent near-miss with an asteroid. They called her an 'astrologer'. Perhaps she does horoscopes and tea-leaves too.
And some of the items on the bookshelf were a bit of a giveaway too.
"Catching Stardust"
A model of a rocket (not sure which - possibly an Atlas-V)
"Limitless" by astronaut Tim Peake
(possibly - blurry) "The End of Everything" by Katie Mack
And what appears to be cat in a spacesuit.

I can't read the titles of the other books but I suspect they are all space-travel related.

This is really not my field, but a rare reverse sun spot breaking the Hale’s Law of sun spot polarity will explode in the next couple of days.

Because of this, the Northern Lights will cover more of planet earth from this X Class sun material ejection.

Let us know if you see the Northern Lights !
The Met Office says around 3 A M tonight the Northern Lights can be seen in Scotland, North Ireland, North England, and a lesser chance in North Wales, and the Midlands.

This is all because something call Hale’s Law has been broken ( a very rare occurrence ) and the Sun is confused about the normal polarity of sun spots.
It seems really rather frequently these days that we get told (probably once every few weeks) that 'the northern lights can be seen as far south as (insert name of southern town here)'.
And each time I fall for it, and I go outside for my last smoke of the night at around midnight and intently stare into the northern sky for a good 10 minutes, see jack, and then the next day there are pictures on the BBC news website of green skies in (eg) Portsmouth.
I reckon they make it all up.
It seems really rather frequently these days that we get told (probably once every few weeks) that 'the northern lights can be seen as far south as (insert name of southern town here)'.
And each time I fall for it, and I go outside for my last smoke of the night at around midnight and intently stare into the northern sky for a good 10 minutes, see jack, and then the next day there are pictures on the BBC news website of green skies in (eg) Portsmouth.
I reckon they make it all up.
Same here, I even make sure I can see the sky properly from under the umbrella.
The spectacular pictures are mostly time exposures, the real thing being underwhelming as seen from (insert name of southern town here).

Ah ha! Thanks for that post Erinaceus. There were some spectacular looking pictures taken from my local area the other week which had puzzled me as I had taken a walk up to a good viewing point and seen bugger all. Assumed I'd not stayed long enough and had missed them! I feel better about it now I know that I would have been unlikely to have seen them anyway. :)

However I did see them from near here in the early 60's, a very obvious red glow. No one had told us to expect them, Mum called us out to see them as she thought that's what they were and the next day it was confirmed. I was also lucky enough to see the green version when I went to Iceland in 2008. I'd still like to see some super duper ones. An online friend who grew up in Canada said he saw them frequently as a child but was scared of them!

Astronomers detect largest cosmic explosion ever seen​

    • Published
      34 minutes ago

The actual explosion captured by a Nasa space telescope
By Pallab Ghosh
Science correspondent

Astronomers have discovered what they believe to be the largest explosion ever detected.
The explosion is more than 10 times brighter than any recorded exploding star - known as a supernova.
So far it has lasted more than three years, much longer than most supernovae which are usually only visibly bright for a few months.
One theory is that the blast was caused when a vast cloud of gas was swallowed up by a black hole.
Actually I can not really understand the enormity of the situation.

According to one article I read, if you push all the billions of stars in the Milly Way together, this would still not equal to this supernovae’s extreme brightness that has been going on for three years.

Wow !
An update on Betelgeuse's behaviour

‘It’s new territory’: why is Betelgeuse glowing so brightly and behaving so strangely?

After the ‘great dimming’, the closest red giant star to Earth is pulsating twice as fast as usual and lighting up the southern hemisphere’s early evening sky

Fri 26 May 2023 04.52 BST
One of the brightest stars in the sky is behaving strangely, pulsating from bright to dim twice as fast as usual and giving scientists an unprecedented insight into how stars die.

Betelgeuse, the closest red giant to Earth, has long been understood to move between brighter and dimmer in 400-day cycles. But from late 2019 to early 2020, it underwent what astrophysicists called “the great dimming”, as a dust cloud obscured our view of the star.

Now, it is glowing at 150% of its normal brightness, and is cycling between brighter and dimmer at 200-day intervals – twice as fast as usual – according to astrophysicist Andrea Dupree of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics. It is currently the seventh brightest star in the night sky – up three places from its usual tenth brightest.
Betelgeuse is Alpha Orionis which ought to mean the brightest star in Orion, Western astronomy AFAIK has never regarded it as being brighter than Rigel. Quite a few constellations have the magnitude out of sequence with the greek letter order. I remember there was speculation about whether the old astronomers got it wrong or whether certain stars have brghtened or dimmed over very long periods or a bit of both.

Variable stars have been known about for quite a long time as some are quite regular and quite noticable Algol the "demon star" in Perseus for instance since 1667. However with darker skies, no telescopes, etc. you would have thought someone in the West would have cottoned on a bit sooner.
I suspect the Arabic astronomers had noticed Algol's peculiar behaviour, since they called it 'The Demon'.

Betelgeuse is a very big, low-density star, and composed of several different layers which sometimes shine through the outermost, thinnest chromosphere. It gives off a lot of dust, too, which is supposed to obscure its true bright sometimes.
Interesting GIF of the solar system dynamics as seen from afar:
I'm curious as to how they made that image, since it seems to include a rather peculiar error - although it is true that the Sun is moving rapidly though the galaxy, it is moving at an angle of about 60 degrees to the plane of the Solar System; so all those planetary orbits should appear much more tilted than they do. This is an error I've seen repeated in several animations of this kind.

Instead of describing a simple spiral though space, the Earth, and all the other planets, are following a skewed spiral, flattened in one direction, sometimes in front of the Sun and sometimes behind it.

Now I read the comments, the viewpoint is somewhere in Sagittarius - an angle that would tend to reduce the 'skewed' appearance significantly. I've downloaded several of Tony Dunn's simulators in the past; they are pretty accurate, so I expect this one is too.

Here's a Youtube video showing the skewing effect in more detail.
New structures discovered in the Milky Way, linked to the central black hole, article from The Guarrdian:

Scientists discover mysterious cosmic threads in Milky Way

Horizontal structures, up to 10 light years in length, appear to point in direction of galaxy’s black hole

Astronomers have discovered hundreds of mysterious cosmic threads that point towards the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way, after a survey of the galaxy.

The strange filaments, each of which stretches five to 10 light years through space, resemble the dots and dashes of morse code on a vast scale. They spread out from the galactic centre 25,000 light years from Earth like fragmented spokes on an enormous wheel.
Mars Livestream!
On Friday, to celebrate the 20th birthday of ESA’s Mars Express, you’ll have the chance to get as close as it’s currently possible get to a live view from Mars. Tune in to be amongst the first to see new pictures roughly every 50 seconds as they’re beamed down directly from the Visual Monitoring Camera on board ESA’s long-lived and still highly productive martian orbiter.

“This is an old camera, originally planned for engineering purposes, at a distance of almost three million kilometres from Earth – this hasn’t been tried before and to be honest, we’re not 100% certain it’ll work,” explains James Godfrey, Spacecraft Operations Manager at ESA’s mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany.

“But I’m pretty optimistic. Normally, we see images from Mars and know that they were taken days before. I’m excited to see Mars as it is now – as close to a martian ‘now’ as we can possibly get!’
From CNN:

Key building block of life found on ocean world orbiting Saturn

A key chemical building block of life has been found on Saturn’s moon Enceladus.

Phosphorus was detected in salty ice grains that were released into space by plumes that erupt between the cracks of the moon’s ice shell.

An ocean exists beneath the thick, icy surface of Enceladus, and plumes of material regularly release from geysers at the moon’s south pole.

That material becomes incorporated into Saturn’s outermost E ring.

Scientists used data from NASA’s Cassini mission, which studied Saturn and its moons between 2004 and 2017. The spacecraft flew through the plumes of Enceladus and Saturn’s E ring many times, and Cassini’s Cosmic Dust Analyzer detected minerals and organic compounds necessary for life.

Previously, researchers detected the presence of sodium, potassium, chlorine and carbonate compounds in the ice grains collected and analyzed by Cassini. Now, scientists can add phosphorus to the list. A study detailing the findings was published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
What some of the clever "boffins" at my work are up to (I just fix the computers) -
We have the UK space agency and the head of the Japanese Space agency (Jaxa) all coming out to for a chinwag on Monday, I'll post anything I am able that looks interesting.
Meanwhile I'll take the chance to plug the new building where I'm based most of the time-
We are right next to Glasgow Airport and hard to miss with the "Heather" coloured roof, about half of the building will be open to the public so watch for interesting events coming up, especially related to space and aviation.