RSS feed
Jonathan Amos, Science correspondent

Jonathan Amos Science correspondent

Come here for my take on UK and European space as well as the latest on major science stories

Rosetta: 'Spuds in space'

Comet 67P on Fri 4 July
Comet 67P seen on Friday 4 July at a separation of 37,000km

With the Rosetta probe closing in on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, we're beginning to get a sense of the ice mountain's shape.

The latest picture release from the European Space Agency (Esa) may only cover an area of about 30 pixels, but it's clear that 67P is no sphere. In some views, the object appears quite elongated.

"Whether it's potato-, or peanut-shaped, or whatever - we're going to have to wait a bit longer," says Trevor Morley, who's part of the mission's flight dynamics team - the navigators who've been driving Rosetta to its quarry.

And Matt Taylor, Esa's project scientist, added: "There appears to be some indication of lobes, or large lumpy sticky-out bits, but I still feel it's not that dissimilar to the 'flying potato' we got from the Lamy shape or Lowry shape." Lamy and Lowry are scientists who used Earth telescopes to try to discern 67P's form.

The three pictures on this page were acquired by Rosetta's Osiris Narrow Angle Camera on Friday last week, when the separation was about 37,000km, not the hundreds of millions of km that the Earth telescopes had to grapple with.

Read full article

Ariane 6: Customers call the shots

A6.1 would loft the big telecoms satellites; A6.2 would put up the low-orbiting, Earth-observation spacecraft

Europe's rocket industry is currently going through something of an epiphany - the realisation that it must adapt, and fast, or simply become irrelevant.

More than half of the big commercial satellites that are working up there - the ones that relay our TV, phone calls, and internet traffic - were lofted by Ariane vehicles. But that dominance is now under threat from new launchers that promise to undercut Europe's best on price.

Read full article

Rosetta edges towards Comet 67P

Comet 67P
Are we nearly there yet? Image taken from a distance of about 86,000km

Europe's Rosetta spacecraft is edging ever closer to its quarry - the 4km-wide Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Thursday's separation is just 43,000km, and the narrowing gap is evident in the probe's latest photo release.

Read full article

Malaysian jet MH370: Refined analysis drives new search area

File photo: HMAS Perth transits through the southern Indian Ocean as an Orion P-3K of the Royal New Zealand Air Force searches for debris for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370, 13 April 2014
Search teams have spent months trying to find signs of the missing plane

As expected, and reported by the BBC last week, the search for MH370 is going to shift hundreds of kilometres to the south of where an Australian defence vessel thought, mistakenly, it had detected signals from the jet’s submerged flight recorders.

The new region is a consequence of further, refined analysis of the brief, automated satellite communications with the plane in its last hours.

Read full article

Rosetta: Icy quarry coming into view

Rosetta views Comet 67P on 4 June, using the Osiris Narrow Angle Camera

Take your seats because the show is about to begin.

The European Space Agency's Rosetta probe is edging ever closer to the Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for what is expected to be one of the most daring space encounters in history.

Read full article

Skylon ‘spaceplane economics stack up’

Skylon D1
Skylon is the result of 30 years' development and probably about 100m euros (£80m) of investment so far

It appears a feasible proposition, economically. That is the conclusion of a study that considered a European launch service based on a Skylon re-usable spaceplane.

The report, commissioned by the European Space Agency (Esa), was led by Reaction Engines Limited (REL) of Oxfordshire with help from a range of other contractors such as London Economics, QinetiQ and Thales Alenia Space (TAS).

Read full article

MH370 spur to 'better ocean mapping'

The Bluefin-21 sub aborted its first dive because it was about to exceed its depth limits

Scientists have welcomed the decision to make all ocean depth data (bathymetry) gathered in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 publicly available.

A detailed survey of 60,000 sq km of seabed is to be undertaken to help refine the hunt for the lost jet.

Read full article

Jonathan added analysis to:

Flight MH370: Malaysia releases raw satellite data

The release document comprises long columns of numbers, including detail on the now famous "handshakes" when Inmarsat's ground network made connections with equipment on board the plane.

The last of these occurred at 00:19:38 UTC. It's a partial handshake, possibly the plane attempting to log back on to the network after a power interruption as the jet ran out of fuel.

Read full article

Ukraine crisis sends a chill into orbit

Soyuz capsule
The latest Soyuz landing was a model of international co-operation

A Soyuz capsule returned to Earth on Wednesday with its international cosmonauts.

Russian Mikhail Tyurin, American Rick Mastracchio and Japan's Koichi Wakata had spent 188 days orbiting the planet on the International Space Station.

Read full article

SpaceX rocket stage in 'soft landing'

Boost stage and legs
The triangular features shown here are the legs that deploy just before landing

SpaceX says its recent experiment to return part of its Falcon-9 rocket back to Earth under control was a success.

The US company has confirmed that the first-stage of the vehicle launched from Cape Canaveral a week ago used its engines to slow its fall, deployed a set of legs and made a "soft landing".

Read full article

Latest Tweets

More Correspondents

  • David Shukman David Shukman Science editor

    My perspective on the science issues of the day

  • Matt McGrath Matt McGrath Environment correspondent

    Updates on emerging environmental news

  • Fergus Walsh, Medical correspondent Fergus Walsh Medical correspondent

    A focus on the medical and health issues of the day

  • Tom Feilden, Science correspondent, Today programme Tom Feilden Science correspondent, Today

    Analysis of the scientific issues making headlines

About Jonathan

Jonathan has been a science specialist with the BBC since 1994.

He was part of the team that set up the BBC News website in 1997.

His online science reporting has won major awards in Britain.

Jonathan is perhaps best known for his European space coverage.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.