The Aurigid meteor shower peaked on September 1, originating from C/1911 N1 Kiess, or comet Kiess, a long-period comet that takes about 2000 years to orbit the Sun. It was discovered in 1935 by Carl Kiess.
As Earth passes through the dust comet Kiess left behind 2000 years ago, meteoroids, or shooting stars, rain upon Earth. They burn up in the atmosphere at very high velocities, about 67 km/s, creating the meteor shower.
The Aurigids get their name from the constellation Auriga, because if you look up in the sky, this is where the shooting stars seem to come from. The dust trail of comet Kiess will not be crossed again in this manner for 70 years.
The constellation of Auriga rising above the horizon.
British astronomers from the University of Cambridge and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have developed a new camera that gives much more detailed pictures of stars and nebula than even the Hubble Space Telescope, and it does all this from the ground. Images from ground-based telescopes are usually blurred out by the atmosphere.
Astronomers have tried to develop techniques to correct the blurring called adaptive optics but so far they only work successfully in the infrared where the smearing is greatly reduced. However a new noise-free, high-speed camera has been developed at the Institute of Astronomy in Cambridge which makes very high resolution imaging in the visible possible.
Stars do not like to be alone. Indeed, most stars are members of a binary system, in which two stars circle around each other in an apparently never-ending cosmic ballet. But sometimes, things can go wrong. When the dancing stars are too close to each other, one of them can start devouring its partner. If the vampire star is a white dwarf – a burned-out star that was once like our Sun – this greed can lead to a cosmic catastrophe: the white dwarf explodes as a Type Ia supernova.
In July 2006, ESO’s Very Large Telescope took images of such a stellar firework in the galaxy NGC 1288.
Scientists for the first time have observed elusive oscillations in the sun's corona, known as Alfvén waves, that transport energy outward from the surface of the sun. The discovery may give researchers more insight into solar magnetic fields, eventually leading to a better understanding of how the sun affects Earth's atmosphere and the entire solar system.
By tracking the speed and direction of the waves, researchers will be able to infer basic properties of the solar atmosphere, such as the density and direction of magnetic fields.
Astronomers at the University of Rochester have discovered five Earth-oceans’ worth of water that has recently fallen into the planet-forming region around an extremely young, developing star.
Dan Watson, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Rochester, believes he and his colleagues are the first to see a short-lived stage of protoplanetary disk formation, and the manner in which a planetary system’s supply of water arrives from the natal envelope within which its parent star originally formed.
The findings, published in today’s Nature, are the first-ever glimpse of material directly feeding a protoplanetary disk.
Artist's rendition of the forming system at IRAS4B. Credit: JPL/CalTech
Einstein's general theory of relativity explained for us that the universe is elastic and gravity distorts space-time like we distort a couch when we sit on it. John Wheeler explained this perfectly when he wrote, "Matter tells space how to curve, and curved space tells matter how to move."
Now astronomers have seen Einstein’s predicted distortion of space-time around three neutron stars, and in doing so they have pioneered a groundbreaking technique for determining the properties of these ultradense objects. Neutron stars cram more than an entire Sun’s worth of material into a sphere the size of a city. A cup of neutron-star stuff would outweigh Mount Everest.
When white dwarf stars explode, they leave behind a rapidly expanding cloud of 'stardust' known as a Type Ia supernova. These exploding events, which shine billions of times brighter than our sun, are all presumed to be extremely similar, and thus have been used extensively as cosmological reference beacons to trace distance and the evolution of the Universe.
Astronomers have now – for the first time ever – provided a unique set of observations obtained with the ESO Very Large Telescope in Chile and the 10-meter Keck telescope in Hawaii, enabling them to find traces of the material that had surrounded a white dwarf star before it exploded.
Good lighting and high resolution cameras in the SMART-1 satellite are making it possible to put together the story linking geological and volcanic activity on the Moon.
“Thanks to low-elevation solar illumination on these high-resolution images”, says SMART-1 Project Scientist Bernard Foing, “it is now possible to study fine, small-scale geological features that went undetected earlier.”
The study provides new information on the thermal and tectonic history of the Moon and the processes following the formation of the large basins. There are approximately 50 recognizable lunar basins more than 300 km in diameter.
Observations of solar flares by spacecraft at Mars, Venus and the Earth show that eruptions on the far side of the Sun may affect our “space weather” back on Earth.
In December 2006, a series of solar flares produced in a single active region were observed from three different points, each approximately 120 degrees apart.
Analysis of the chemical make up of two asteroids in the outer asteroid belt has thrown the classification system for these small bodies, which orbit between Mars and Jupiter, into disorder.
Dr Rene Duffard, said, “We appear to have detected basalt on the surface of these asteroids, which is very unusual for this part of the asteroid belt. We do not know whether we have discovered two basaltic asteroids with a very particular and previously unseen mineralogical composition or two objects of non basaltic nature that have to be included in a totally new taxonomic class.”
The presence of basalt means that the asteroid must have melted partially at some time in the past, which implies that it was once part of a larger body which had internal heating processes.