A couple of key events in the past few days to mention in brief:
- The Phoenix probe has landed safely on Mars, and is returning its first pictures from the northern reaches of the Red Planet. Spectacularly, its descent was captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter - the weblog at the Planetary Society has the image, and you will just have to see it to believe it (a swish of the improbable skis, of course, to the Bad Astronomer, who certainly doesn't need any tips from me). The probe has already begun returning data, after taking the traditional image of its own foot to ensure that the landing site was stable.
- I'm adding this one late to the list, but it just seemed to interesting to allow to slip past. Today a report of a star in the Lesser Magellanic Cloud (one of the small companion galaxies to our own Milky Way), has been published. It describes WOH G64, a supergiant red dwarf with a diameter so large that, were it to replace our sun, the star itself would extend out to the orbit of Saturn. It is also gifted with an enormous torus of gas and dust which, according to research published this week, is a light-year across. Amazing stuff, and well worth a read.
- This from last week, which I've been meaning to mention in passing: a supernova has been seen in the very earliest moments of its final, catastrophic demise. The BBC news item has links to all of the major sites reporting this piece. This event, which astronomers have been seeking for more than fifty years, sheds new light on the process which marks the death of a massive star.
- Just for fun, because his death was supposed to have been foretold in the stars or some such rot, the earliest known bust of Julius Caesar has been found at the bottom of the Rhône River in southern France, near the town of Arles. Archaeologists are suggesting that the bust, which dates from 46 BCE, was thrown in the river two years later when Caesar was famously assassinated on the Ides of March. The death of Caesar, as you will remember from your histories, marked the death of the last tyranny of the Roman Republic, and the beginning of the Civil War which ultimately led to Octavian seizing power and crowning himself Augustus, thus founding the Roman Empire.
More news and thoughts, as ever, as events warrant.