Observing

Saturn’s close encounter with the Moon

31 May 2015 Ade Ashford

If you would like to view ringed planet Saturn at its best but are unsure which ‘star’ you should point your telescope at, no problem — the Moon makes a convenient guide as it brushes close by late into the evening of Monday, June 1st.

Picture This

A bubbly cosmic celebration of star birth

31 May 2015 Astronomy Now

In the brightest region of this glowing nebula called RCW 34, gas is heated dramatically by young stars and expands through the surrounding cooler gas, bursting outwards into the vacuum like the contents of an uncorked champagne bottle. But RCW 34 has more to offer than a few bubbles; there seem to have been multiple episodes of star formation within the same cloud.

News

Sharp-eyed ALMA spots a flare on famous red giant star

30 May 2015 Astronomy Now

Observations with the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) have revealed what seems to be a gigantic flare on the surface of Mira, one of the closest and most famous red giant stars in the sky. Activity like this in red giants — similar to what we see in the Sun — comes as a surprise to astronomers.

News

Blue aurorae in Mars’ sky visible to the naked eye

30 May 2015 Astronomy Now

For the first time, an international team of scientists from NASA, the Institute of Planetology and Astrophysics of Grenoble (IPAG), the European Space Agency and Aalto University in Finland, have predicted that colourful, glowing aurorae can be seen by the naked eye on a terrestrial planet other than Earth — Mars.

Picture This

Dawn spirals closer to Ceres, returns a new view

29 May 2015 Astronomy Now

A new view of Ceres, taken by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft on May 23rd, shows finer detail is becoming visible on the dwarf planet. The spacecraft snapped the image at a distance of 3,200 miles (5,100 kilometres) with a resolution of 1,600 feet (480 meters) per pixel.

News

Merging galaxies break radio silence

29 May 2015 Astronomy Now

A large Hubble survey confirms an unambiguous link between the presence of supermassive black holes that power high-speed, radio-signal-emitting jets and the merger history of their host galaxies. The results lend significant weight to the case for jets being the result of merging black holes.

Book Reviews

Why Mars: NASA and the Politics of Space Exploration

28 May 2015 Astronomy Now

W Henry Lambright presents a chronological account of how Mars exploration waxed and waned in tune with the political and economic priorities of the U.S. Government in a book that will expand your views about Mars’ place on the priority list of planetary destinations, says reviewer Malcolm Smith.

Book Reviews

Introducing Astronomy

28 May 2015 Steve Ringwood

The production quality of this delightful little book by Iain Nicolson is remarkably lavish given the cover price, writes reviewer Steve Ringwood. While aimed at relative newbies to astronomy, its claim to be an introductory guide does not diminish its scope.

Book Reviews

Exmoor Dark Skies

28 May 2015 Owen Brazell

Seb Jay’s book is intended to help promote the Exmoor International Dark Sky Reserve, acting both as a guide to the locations within the park that are suitable for observing from and as a beginners’ guide to the objects to be seen, says reviewer Owen Brazell.

News

NASA’s New Horizons sees more detail as it draws closer to Pluto

28 May 2015 Astronomy Now

What a difference 20 million miles makes! Images of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons are growing in scale as the spacecraft approaches its mysterious target. The new images, taken May 8th-12th using a powerful telescopic camera and downlinked last week, reveal more detail about Pluto’s complex and high contrast surface.