Mars – here we come again!

  If there is anyone on Mars they must be wondering about the strange object flying around their planet. In science-fiction stories we have given a particular identity to the people that supposedly live on Martian soil. The object troubling our fictional Martians is NASA’s Mars atmosphere and volatile evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft which entered Mars’ […]

SANSA monitoring geomagnetic storm

  According to the Space Weather Centre of the South African National Space Agency (SANSA) active region 2158 near the centre of the solar disk erupted on 10 September 2014 with an X1,6 class solar flare, accompanied by a coronal mass ejection (CME). The CME is travelling towards Earth and was expected to impact the […]

Solar flares return

  Although over the past few months solar activity has been very low, with at one stage no visible sunspots, we could still be in for some surprises. On 24 August 2014  the sun emitted a mid-level solar flare.  NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured images of the flare, which erupted on the left side of […]

Chandra X-ray observatory celebrates 15 years in space

  Fifteen years ago, NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory was launched into space aboard the space shuttle Columbia. Since its deployment on 23 July  1999 Chandra has helped revolutionise the understanding of the universe through its unrivalled X-ray vision. Chandra, along with the Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope, is specially designed to detect X-ray […]

Solar flare’s impact underestimated

  If an asteroid big enough to knock modern civilization back to the 18th century appeared out of deep space and buzzed the Earth-moon system, the near-miss would be instant worldwide headline news. Two years ago, Earth experienced a close shave just as perilous, but most newspapers didn’t mention it. The “impactor” was an extreme […]

First gamma ray pulsar measured in southern sky from ground level

  For the first time from ground level the High Energy Stereoscopic System (HESS) has measured pulsed gamma rays in the southern sky. The radiation originates from the Vela pulsar, a neutron star that was formed when a massive star collapsed. This is the first pulsar detected by HESS II – the latest upgrade of […]

Has the solar maximum arrived?

  During 2008 and 2009 an eerie quiet descended on the sun.  Sunspot counts dropped to historically-low levels and solar flares ceased altogether.  As the longest and deepest solar minimum in a century unfolded, solar physicists wondered  whether  a solar maximum  would ever return and if so when? “It’s back,” says Dean Pesnell of the […]

Curiosity takes a self-portrait at “Windjana” drilling site

  NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover used the camera at the end of its arm in April and May 2014 to take dozens of component images combined into a  self-portrait where the rover drilled into a sandstone target called “Windjana”. The camera is the Mars hand lens imager (MAHLI), which previously recorded portraits of Curiosity at […]