News

Researchers find a new way to weigh pulsars

5 October 2015 Astronomy Now

Until now, scientists have determined the mass of stars, planets and moons by studying their motion in relation to others nearby, using the gravitational pull between the two as the basis for their calculations. However, in the case of young pulsars, mathematicians at the University of Southampton have now found a new way to measure their mass — even if a star exists on its own in space.

Picture This

“Silk Skies” by Jamen Percy

5 October 2015 Astronomy Now

Jamen Percy’s ethereal view of an auroral display over Abisko National Park, Lapland, Sweden was captured with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera, 24mm f/1.4 lens and a 4-second, ISO 2000 exposure — winning image of the Aurorae category in the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition 2015.

News

Rosetta’s first peek at comet 67P’s dark side

4 October 2015 Astronomy Now

Since its arrival at comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in August 2014, ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft has been surveying the surface and the environment of this curiously shaped body. Now that the comet is experiencing a brief, hot southern hemisphere summer, its south polar regions have emerged from almost five years of total darkness and it has been possible to observe them with other Rosetta instruments.

News

Discovery of white dwarf companions of millisecond pulsars

4 October 2015 Astronomy Now

When a massive star ends its life in a spectacular supernova explosion, it can leave behind a rapidly spinning neutron star with a period of 1-10 milliseconds. Such objects that emit electromagnetic radiation in a lighthouse-like beam sweeping past the Earth are known as millisecond pulsars. CfA astronomers have identified white dwarf companions of two more millisecond pulsars in the spectacular globular cluster 47 Tucanae.

Picture This

Picture perfect postcard from Mount Sharp, Mars

3 October 2015 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars is currently on the lower slopes of Mount Sharp in a region covered in sandstone where it has just drilled its fifth prospecting hole. Two weeks ago, still in the same general vicinity, Curiosity took a pair of long-range scenic images toward higher regions of the mountain — beautiful views worthy of a postcard home.

News

Asteroids found to be the Moon’s main ‘water supply’

3 October 2015 Astronomy Now

Water reserves found on the Moon are the result of asteroids acting as “delivery vehicles” and not of falling comets as was previously thought. Using computer simulation, scientists from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and the RAS Geosphere Dynamics Institute have discovered that a large asteroid can deliver more water to the lunar surface than the cumulative fall of comets over a billion year period.

News

Celebrating the golden anniversary of black-hole singularities

2 October 2015 Astronomy Now

When a star collapses forming a black hole, a space-time singularity is created wherein the laws of physics no longer work. In 1965, Sir Roger Penrose presented a theorem where he associated that singularity with so-called ”trapped surfaces” that shrink over time. That hypothesis — one of the results of the general theory of relativity — is now celebrating its 50th anniversary.

News

Pluto’s big moon Charon reveals a colourful & violent history

2 October 2015 Astronomy Now

At half the diameter of Pluto, Charon is the largest satellite relative to its planet in the solar system. NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has returned the best colour and the highest resolution images yet of Charon, showing a landscape covered with mountains, canyons, landslides, surface-colour variations and more — all evidence of a surprisingly complex and violent history.

Picture This

“A Celestial Visitor” by George Martin

1 October 2015 Astronomy Now

This picture of Comet C/2014 Q2 Lovejoy was taken from Market Harborough, Leicestershire by 15-year-old George Martin on 18 December 2014 using his new 8-inch f/5 Newtonian telescope and a Nikon D3200 camera — winning image of the Young Competition category in the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition 2015.

News

A fresh perspective on the extraordinary Phoenix galaxy cluster

1 October 2015 Astronomy Now

Galaxy clusters are often described by superlatives. After all, they are huge conglomerations of galaxies, hot gas, and dark matter, representing the largest structures in the universe held together by gravity. New observations of the galaxy cluster SPT-CLJ2344-4243 (or Phoenix Cluster) at X-ray, ultraviolet, and optical wavelengths are helping astronomers better understand this extraordinary system.