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In this month: December

11th December 1972 Apollo 17, the last of the Apollo missions, lands on the Moon. Eugene Cernan, commander of Apollo 17, still holds the distinction of being the last man to walk on the Moon as no humans have been back since. The mission carried the only trained geologist to walk on the lunar surface, Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt. Compared to previous Apollo missions the Apollo 17 astronauts traversed the greatest distance using the Lunar Roving Vehicle and returned the greatest amount of rock and soil samples. Image below courtesy of NASA. 27th December 1984 A meteorite, ALH84001, is found in the Allan Hills area of Antarctica. Believed to be a fragment from a Martian meteorite the 1

Aurora

Aurora are sporadic, faint visual phenomenon associated with geomagnetic activity that occurs mainly in the high latitude night sky. These can be spectacular and moving. According to Geoffrey Wyatt, Senior Science Educator for the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences: "It's hard to convey what it's like standing under the sky as it dances and pulses because of what happened on the Sun several days ago!" Geoff has recently visited Iceland and his photographs of aurora are impressive, so impressive that we have asked him if we can use them on this blog. The science which explains them is fascinating. Auroras occur within a band of latitudes known as the auroral oval, the location of which is de

Annular Solar Eclipse of 26 Dec 2019

On Boxing day this year there will be an annular eclipse which will be a surprise to many. Even though I am a keen amateur astronomer, this eclipse will be too close to Christmas to justify a long road trip from the southern states to the Northern Territory, northern Queensland or northern Western Australia, especially after all that Xmas pudding. I will be viewing a live stream on You tube from 4pm Sydney time. Unfortunately we will only get a partial eclipse here in Australia. For those living North of the line that runs across the country from Proserpine to Perth there will be something to see. If you are keen the best locations to view the eclipse are in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Phill

Solar observations: October 2019

Sunspot activity on the Sun is now proving to be very rare as the Solar Cycle 24 is now at minimum. Not one Sunspot was observed by me for the whole of the month. The only activity seen on the face of the Sun was a very small faint Filament seen on the first of October about 60° east and 10° south. Prominences were a little more active though most were very faint due to the magnetic fields being so weak. An active Prominence was observed on the 2nd on the NW limb and by the following day had reached a height of 47,000 km. No activity at all could be seen on the 6th. The next significant Prominence was observed on the 11th when a double column Prominence was seen on the NE limb reaching a hei

Did you know? The Andromeda Galaxy

This month ……. The Andromeda Galaxy (M31). On a collision course with the Milky Way it will be visiting us “shortly” The Andromeda Galaxy is one of the closest galaxies to our own Milky Way and is travelling in our direction at approximately 100 to 140 kilometres per second. In about 4.5 billion years the Andromeda Galaxy and the Milky Way are expected to collide. The photograph above is by Adam Evans - M31, the Andromeda Galaxy (now with h-alpha)Uploaded by NotFromUtrecht, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12654493 At a distance of 2.5 million light years the Andromeda Galaxy is the most distant object you can see with the naked eye and with an apparent magnitude of

In this month: November

27th November 1783 The first reference to black holes is mentioned by John Michell, an English natural philosopher, in a paper for the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. He called them "dark stars". Michell suggested that there might be many "dark stars" in the universe, and today astronomers believe that black holes do indeed exist at the centres of most galaxies. Michell proposed that astronomers could detect "dark stars" by looking for star systems which behaved gravitationally like two stars, but where only one star could be seen. It was an extraordinarily accurate prediction. 2nd November 2000 Permanent habitation of the International Space Station (ISS) begins.

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