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Out of this World

News from space and astronomy communities around the world.

A Telescope as Big as the Earth

By David Reneke

News from the space and astronomy communities around the world.

David Reneke is an astronomy lecturer and teacher, a feature writer for major Australian newspapers and magazines, and a science correspondent for ABC and commercial radio. Subscribe to David’s free Astro-Space newsletter at www.davidreneke.com

To view this article subscribe or purchase a yearly pass here.

Lightning Sprites Are Out Of This World

By David Reneke

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

A few decades ago, scientists discovered the existence of “sprites” some 80 km above the surface of the Earth. Offshoots of electric discharges caused by lightning storms, they’re a valuable window into the composition of our atmosphere.

Space and astronomy news from around the world

By David Reneke

Welcome Back – From Mars

David Reneke is an astronomy lecturer and teacher, a feature writer for major Australian newspapers and magazines, and a science correspondent for ABC and commercial radio. Subscribe to David’s free Astro-Space newsletter at www.davidreneke.com

To view this article subscribe or purchase a yearly pass here.

Space and astronomy news from around the world

By David Reneke

A Plethora of Planets

Not many people are aware of it, but there’s an unofficial race going on among astronomers to find what’s been termed the “Holy Grail” of astronomy – a planet just like the Earth around another star. And they’ve come tantalisingly close. So close, in fact, that most are predicting we’ll find that world within the next 5 years!

Extraterrestrial Body Brought Back to Earth

 Retrieval of the capsule at Woomera. Credit: JAXA/ISIS

Retrieval of the capsule at Woomera. Credit: JAXA/ISIS

By David Reneke

What do the samples from the Itokawa asteroid tell us about the history of our solar system?

The space and astronomy world held their collective breaths on 13 June 2010 as an ion-powered Japanese spacecraft named Hayabusa (literally “peregrine falcon”) successfully returned the first samples gathered from the surface of an asteroid. At last, the impossible had become possible. Scientists hoped they had captured those long-awaited pristine pieces of our solar system.

Asteroids Rock

By David Reneke

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

After a decade of planning by science teams, NASA’s Dawn spacecraft has returned the first close-up image after beginning its orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta. On 15 July Dawn became the first probe to enter orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

“We just sort of slid into orbit, letting gravity grab the spacecraft with a light tug,” one NASA technician was overheard saying. Neat huh?

Orphaned Planets Roam Free

By David Reneke

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

Astronomers have discovered a new class of Jupiter-sized planets floating alone in the darkness of space, wandering the heavens away from the light of a star. It’s likely that these lone worlds were ejected from developing planetary systems just after their formation. Although such a world makes a great science fiction setting, it was long considered an unlikely event.

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.