Where does space begin? Scientists at the University of Calgary have created a new instrument that is able to track the transition between the relatively gentle winds of Earth's atmosphere and the more violent flows of charged particles in space – flows that can reach speeds well over 1000 km/hr. And they have accomplished this in unprecedented detail. 

Data received from the U of C-designed instrument sent to space on a NASA launch from Alaska about two years ago was able to help pinpoint the so-called edge of space: the boundary between the Earth's atmosphere and outer space.

With that data, U of C scientists confirmed that space begins 118 km above Earth.

The International Year of Astronomy continues its celebration with a photo of triple galaxy group April 1 and 2. 140,000 people around the world voted on six potential targets; the Arp 274 galaxy group won with 67,000 votes.

Photo from Wired

For some reason I really want a Milky Way Dairy Queen Blizzard... Thanks to Wired for the photo and the following description.

On March 17th 2009 Europe's first geodetic satellite was successfully launched from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome in Russia. The first stages of putting the satellite in a stable recording orbit are proceeding according to plans. So far, so good.

GOCE inside
Credit: ESA - AOES Medialab

Galileo Galilei Linceo was, among other talents, a solar physicist. While not the first to observe sunspots, he sketched (in 1612) some of the earliest surviving tracings of sunspots. Observing their daily motion, he deduced that a) they were on or near the surface of the sun and b) that the sun was rotating.
A new Hubble image highlights striking swirling dust lanes and glittering globular clusters in oddball galaxy NGC 7049.

The NASA/ESA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured this image of NGC 7049, a mysterious looking galaxy on the border between spiral and elliptical galaxies. NGC 7049 is found in the constellation of Indus, and is the brightest of a cluster of galaxies, a so-called Brightest Cluster Galaxy (BCG). Typical BCGs are some of the oldest and most massive galaxies. They provide excellent opportunities for astronomers to study the elusive globular clusters lurking within.
As part of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 Cornerstone project, 100 Hours of Astronomy, the ambitious “Around the World in 80 Telescopes” event is a unique live webcast over 24 hours, following night and day around the globe to some of the most advanced observatories on and off the planet.

To provide a long-lasting memory of this amazing world tour, observatories worldwide are revealing wonderful, and previously unseen, astronomical images. For its part, ESO is releasing outstanding pictures of two galaxies, observed with telescopes at the La Silla and Paranal observatories. 
A small, dense object only twelve miles in diameter is responsible for this beautiful X-ray nebula that spans 150 light years. At the center of this image made by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is a very young and powerful pulsar, known as PSR B1509-58, or B1509 for short.

The pulsar is a rapidly spinning neutron star which is spewing energy out into the space around it to create complex and intriguing structures, including one that resembles a large cosmic hand. In this image, the lowest energy X-rays that Chandra detects are red, the medium range is green, and the most energetic ones are colored blue. Astronomers think that B1509 is about 1,700 years old and is located about 17,000 light years away.
While the team here discusses our current veeery quiet solar minimum, what are working solar physicists thinking?  Well, from the SPA Newsletter (, a twice-weekly newsletter, came this neat bit of April 1 whimsy:

Solar Dynamics Observer Mission Postponed


From: <claruse at>
Integral has captured one of the brightest gamma-ray bursts ever seen. A meticulous analysis of the data has allowed astronomers to investigate the initial phases of this giant stellar explosion, which led to the ejection of matter at velocities close to the speed of light. In particular, the astronomers believe that the explosion lifted a piece of the central engine’s magnetic field into space.
On 19 December 2004, the blast from an exploding star arrived at Earth. ESA’s Integral satellite, an orbiting gamma-ray observatory, recorded the entire event, providing information for what may prove to be one of the most important gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) seen in recent years. As the data was collected, astronomers saw the 500-second-long burst rise to extraordinary brilliance. 
The sunspot cycle is behaving a little like the stock market. Just when you think it has hit bottom, it goes even lower. 

2008 was a bear. There were no sunspots observed on 266 of the year's 366 days (73 percent). To find a year with more blank suns, you have to go all the way back to 1913, which had 311 spotless days. Prompted by these numbers, some observers suggested that the solar cycle had hit bottom in 2008.

Maybe not. Sunspot counts for 2009 have dropped even lower. As of March 31st, there were no sunspots on 78 of the year's 90 days (87 percent).