The Bad Astronomer writes: Two amateur astronomers 2000 km apart confirm that on March 17, 2016, a comet or asteroid impacted Jupiter. The flash of light lasted for about one second, and marked the demise of a chunk of interplanetary debris likely a few tens of meters across. This is the sixth confirmed time such an impact on Jupiter has been seen (counting the fragmented comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 as one event).
The Bad Astronomer writes: It's long been thought that asteroid impacts create pressures high enough to form diamonds. Now, using high-energy lasers and X-ray crystallography, researchers have confirmed that lonsdaleite, a form of diamond, can be made this way.
The Bad Astronomer writes: The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted a new crater on the surface of Mars, and, using before-and-after pictures, the impact date has been nailed down to less than a day — it happened on or about March 27, 2012. The crater is 50 meters or so in size, and surrounded by smaller craters that may have been caused by smaller impacts due to the incoming meteoroid breaking up. Several landslides were spotted in the area as well, possibly due to the shock wave of the impact.
The Bad Astronomer writes: Astronomers have just announced that the exoplanet Beta Pic b — a 10-Jupiter-mass world 60 light years away -— rotates in about 8 hours. Using a high-resolution spectrometer and exploiting the Doppler shift of light seen as the planet spins, they measured its rotation velocity as 28,000 mph. Making reasonable assumptions about the planet's size, that gives the length of its day. This is the first time such a measurement has been achieved for an exoplanet.
The Bad Astronomer writes: Astronomers have announced the discovery of Kepler-186f, a very nearly Earth-sized planet in its star's habitable zone. The planet is the fifth in a system of five orbiting a red dwarf star 500 light years away, and is located in the region where liquid water could exist on its surface. It's not know if this planet is Earth-like — that is, with water and air and the potential for life — but it's the closest we've yet seen where one could be like our own planet.
The Bad Astronomer writes: The viral video showing what looked like a meteorite falling past a skydiver made quite a splash, with many people assuming it was true. However, further analysis shows that it's also perfectly consistent with being a small (1-3 cm) rock that fell out of the parachute itself, which is a far more likely explanation.
The Bad Astronomer writes: A new and potentially bright supernova was just discovered in the nearby galaxy M82. This is a Type Ia supernova, the catastrophic explosion of a white dwarf. It appears to be on the rise, and may have been caught as much as two weeks before peak brightness. It's currently already brighter than magnitude 12, and may get to mag 8, easy to see in small telescopes. The galaxy is less than 12 million light years away, so this may become one of the best-studied supernovae in recent times. Type Ia supernovae are used to measure dark energy, so seeing one nearby is a huge boon to astronomy.
The Bad Astronomer writes: The Gemini Planet Imager is a camera that is designed to take direct photos of exoplanets, alien worlds orbiting other stars. In a test run last November it spotted the exoplanet Beta Pictoris b, a dusty ring around a nearby star, and even snapped a portrait of Jupiter's moon Europa. Up to now, only about a dozen exoplanets have been directly imaged; GPI is expected to find dozens more in the next few years.