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Out of this World

News from space and astronomy communities around the world.

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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Europa: Our Best Bet for Earth-Like Life

By David Reneke

If a 100-km deep ocean existed below the ice shell of Europa, the sixth of Jupiter's many moons, it would be 10 times deeper than any ocean on Earth and would contain twice as much water as Earth's oceans and rivers combined!

Read this article in Australasian Science Magazine (print only).

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