NASA’s Cassini mission scientists were watching closely when the Sun set on Saturn’s rings in August 2009. It was the equinox — one of two times in the Saturnian year when the Sun illuminates the planet’s enormous ring system edge-on — providing an extraordinary opportunity for the spacecraft to observe short-lived changes that reveal details about the nature of the rings.
While a vast body of space imagery lies just an internet click away, nothing compares to seeing an astronomical object in the eyepiece. But it is only natural that one should wish to capture such views with a camera. Steve Ringwood investigates Celestron’s ingenious Ultima Duo hybrid eyepieces intended to combine your visual and photographic needs in one package.
In a Hubble Space Telescope survey of 2,753 young, blue star clusters in the neighbouring Andromeda Galaxy (M31), astronomers have found that M31 and our own galaxy have a similar percentage of newborn stars based on mass. The intensive survey was a unique collaboration between astronomers and “citizen scientists,” volunteers who provided invaluable help in analysing the mountain of data from Hubble.
In the dawn twilight of Saturday, 5 September, observers in the British Isles with clear skies can see the last quarter Moon pass in front of first-magnitude star Aldebaran in the constellation Taurus — the brightest star (aside from the Sun) to be occulted by the Moon as seen from the UK this year.
Astronomers have developed a new, highly accurate method of measuring the distances between stars using a technique which searches out stellar ‘twins’. The method could be a valuable complement to the Gaia satellite which is creating a 3-D map of the sky over five years, measuring the size of the Milky Way and enabling a greater understanding of how it evolved.
A team of UK scientists is attempting to build the first cosmobiological model to explore the habitability of the universe. Using a survey of more than 140,000 galaxies nearest to Earth, the team found that elliptical galaxies — rather than spirals like our Milky Way — could be the most probable “cradles of life”.
Scientists may be closer to solving the mystery of how Mars changed from a world with surface water billions of years ago to the arid Red Planet of today. A new analysis of the largest known deposit of carbonate minerals on Mars suggests that the original Martian atmosphere may have already lost most of its carbon dioxide by the era of valley network formation.
Dominating this image is the so-called Prawn Nebula, part of the gigantic nebula Gum 56, some 6,000 light-years away in Scorpius. For millions of years stars have been born out of the nebula’s gas, material which is later returned to the stellar nursery when the aging stars either expel their material gently into space, or eject it more dramatically in supernova explosions.