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Out of this World

News from space and astronomy communities around the world.

Diamonds in the Sky

By David Reneke

David Reneke brings news from the space and astronomy communities around the world.

The galaxy’s largest diamond has been found, but you’d better carry a deep wallet because this 10 billion trillion trillion carat monster has a cost that’s literally astronomical.

“You would need a jeweller’s magnifying glass the size of the Sun to grade this diamond!” says astronomer Travis Metcalfe from the Harvard Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, who leads a team of researchers that discovered the giant gem.

All Aboard the Space Elevator

By Dave Reneke

Dave Reneke brings news from the space and astronomy communities around the world.

All Aboard the Space Elevator

Imagine this! A cable, 50,000 km long, anchored below the ocean to an orbiting space platform that allows cargo, and even people, to climb up. Sounds incredible doesn’t it, but it is possible. In fact, it’s being built now! It’s called a “space elevator” and it’s an idea that’s really out of this world!

Sex in Space – A Taboo?

By David Reneke

Dave Reneke brings news from the space and astronomy communities around the world.

According to three prominent scientists, having sex and getting pregnant in space is not a good idea. The radiation hazards of space are just too dangerous, they say.

Female astronauts sent to colonise Mars would be well advised to avoid getting pregnant en route because high energy particles bombarding the ship would almost certainly sterilise any female foetus conceived in deep space, making it that much more difficult to establish a successful Mars colony once the crew lands.

NASA’s Kepler Mission Discovers Its First Rocky Planet

By David Reneke

Dave Reneke brings news from the space and astronomy communities around the world.

NASA’s Kepler Mission Discovers Its First Rocky Planet

NASA’s Kepler mission has confirmed the discovery of its first rocky planet, named Kepler-10b. Measuring 1.4 times the size of Earth, it’s the smallest planet ever discovered outside our solar system. The discovery of this exoplanet is based on more than 8 months of data collected by the spacecraft from May 2009 to early January 2010.

The Sun Steals Comets from Other Stars

By David Reneke

Dave Reneke brings news from the space and astronomy communities around the world.

The next time you see a comet blazing across the night sky, consider this: it’s a stolen pleasure. If astronomers are reading things right, our Sun has snatched comets from neighbouring stars’ backyards.

This kind of thievery accounts for most of the comets in the Oort Cloud at the edge of our solar system. “The Sun was born within a huge community of other stars that formed in the same gas cloud,” says Hal Levison of the Southwest Research Institute.

How Much Do Stars Weigh?

A planet/moon transit that may be imaged by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft.

A planet/moon transit that may be imaged by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft.

By David Reneke

Dave Reneke brings news from the space and astronomy communities around the world.

How do astronomers weigh a star that’s trillions of kilometres away and way too big to fit on a bathroom scale? In most cases they can’t, although they can “guesstimate” using computer models of stellar structure.

New work by Dr David Kipping of University College, London says that in special cases we can weigh a star directly. If the star has a planet, and that planet has a moon, and both of them cross in front of their star, then we can measure their sizes and orbits to learn about the star. This is cutting-edge astronomy.

Cosmic Cannibalism

BP Piscium may provide clues about the formation of exoplanets.

BP Piscium may provide clues about the formation of exoplanets.

By David Reneke

Dave Reneke brings news from the space and astronomy communities around the world.

Cosmic Cannibalism
Nasa's Chandra X-ray observatory has found a star that might have gobbled up its neighbour – another star or a giant planet – shedding new light on the interaction between planets and stars.

The star, BP Piscium, is a more evolved version of our Sun, and is located about 1000 light years away in the constellation of Pisces. It appears to be a young star but in fact it may be a 1-billion-year-old red giant that “ate” its young companion, leaving remnants that are still visible today.

Huge Solar Storms to Impact Earth

By David Reneke

Dave Reneke brings news from the space and astronomy communities around the world.

Huge Solar Storms to Impact Earth
Beware the solar maximum – that’s the dire warning from senior space agency scientists. They believe the Earth will be hit with unprecedented levels of magnetic energy from solar flares after the Sun wakes from a deep slumber sometime around 2013. National power grids could overheat and air travel could be severely disrupted while electronic items, navigation devices and major satellites could stop working.

It’s Raining on the Sun

Image of solar filament

A huge magnetic filament erupts on 30 March 2010. Credit: SDO/AIA

By David Reneke

Dave Reneke brings news from the space and astronomy communities around the world.

It came like a bolt out of the blue and lasted only a few seconds, but it opened up new questions and solved an old one about our closest stellar neighbour, the Sun. Scientists working with NASA’s new Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) have released the most astonishing movies of the Sun anyone has ever seen, including a massive eruption – one of the biggest in years.

Out of This World

Image

The PacMan-shaped hot spot has baffled scientists. Image: NASA/JPL

By David Reneke

Dave Reneke brings news from the space and astronomy communities around the world.

David Reneke is an astronomy educator, writer and broadcaster who represents Australasian Science on more than 60 networked radio stations across Australia. He also produces a range of educational CD-ROMS on astronomy and space exploration for beginners, and runs an astronomy outreach program for schools throughout NSW. Subscribe to David’s free Astro-Space newsletter at www.davidreneke.com

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