10 Earths could be laid across the diameter of the gigantic sunspot in AR2191 during its previous rotation, captured on October 23, 2014. NASA’s Solar Dynamic Observatory

By Paul Cally, Monash University

The largest sunspot seen in 24 years is rotating back to face the Earth, and it looks to have grown even bigger.

A new active asteroid called 62412 has been located in the Solar System's main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It is the first comet-like object seen in the Hygiea family of asteroids.  

Think of our poor sister world Venus – almost the same size as Earth, it probably had oceans at the beginning. But Venus orbits closer to the sun -- and was never in the Continuously Habitable Goldilocks Zone, or CHZ.

Instead our poor sister world quickly spiraled into a greenhouse effect that erased its oceans and drove all the water away, leaving a desert planet, coated with dense clouds of sulfuric acid and carbon dioxide.

The XZ Tauri star system has been imaged blowing a hot bubble of gas into the surrounding space, which is filled with bright and beautiful clumps that are emitting strong winds and jets. These objects illuminate the region, creating a truly dramatic scene.

This dark and ominous landscape is located some 450 light-years away in the constellation of Taurus The Bull. It lies in the north-eastern part of a large, dark cloud known as LDN 1551, as seen in the Hubble telescope image below..

Just... WOW. I did not expect this to happen in my lifetime (and no, I do not expect to die tomorrow either). The Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Chile has pictured a forming planetary system in a young star surrounded by a complex nebula of hot gas.I still remember the Scientific American article I read some 25 years ago about planet formation simulations, which showed how computer models of planetesimals rotating in a cloud of gas around a star. The planetesimals would pick up matter around as they swept the orbital plane, and in the matter of millions of years acquire a planetary mass and "clean up" the area around. Now we are seeing this before us, in the picture below offered by ALMA.

NASA's Dawn spacecraft visited the asteroid Vesta in 2011 and it showed that deep grooves circling the asteroid's equator were probably caused by a massive impact on Vesta's south pole.

A super high-speed cannon at NASA's Ames Research Center has shed new light on the violent chain of events deep in Vesta's interior that formed those surface grooves, some of which are wider than the Grand Canyon.

"Vesta got hammered," said Peter Schultz, professor of earth, environmental, and planetary sciences at Brown and the paper's senior author. "The whole interior was reverberating, and what we see on the surface is the manifestation of what happened in the interior."

Elon Musk says he wants to create a backup of Earth on Mars - and Stephen Hawking also says that humans have to move into space to survive long term. This is hardly ever questioned in the media.

Now here are other good reasons for space settlements - but would any of them be of any value as a "backup" any time in the next few hundred million years? 


You'll always have survivors on Earth for any credible disaster. Even a giant asteroid would have some human survivors - at the very least - in submarines. 

An active region on the sun labeled AR 12192 rotated into view on Oct. 18th. It was already an area of intense and complex magnetic fields and soon grew into the largest such region in 24 years.

It fired off 10 sizable solar flares as it traversed across the face of the sun and became so large it could be seen without a telescope (don't ever look without with eclipse glasses) as many did during a partial eclipse on Oct. 23rd.

Have you ever wondered if any spaceship could ever travel through the sun with future technology? What if it is as big as Mercury or larger? Nothing material will work that we know of.  The sun's temperature of 26 million degrees is far too hot, and the most refractory substances we know of melt at a few thousand degrees. It seems a hopeless task. But there are a few things to explore, so let's look a bit more closely.