News

Earth-sized rocky planet found orbiting a nearby star

12 November 2015 Astronomy Now

The collection of rocky planets orbiting distant stars has just grown by one, and the latest discovery is the most intriguing yet. Known as GJ 1132b, the newfound world lies just 39 light-years away. Although hot as an oven, the 9,200 mile-wide planet is cool enough to potentially host an atmosphere. If it does, we could study that atmosphere in detail with the Hubble Space Telescope and future observatories like the Giant Magellan Telescope.

News

Newly discovered dwarf planet is solar system’s most distant object

12 November 2015 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have found a dwarf planet three times farther away from the Sun than Pluto, making it the most distant known object in the solar system. Designated V774104, the body is 500 to 1000 kilometres in diameter and is currently 15.4 billion kilometres, or 103 astronomical units (AU) from the Sun, but its exact orbit is yet to be determined.

News

Mercury receives a meteoroid shower from Comet Encke

11 November 2015 Astronomy Now

The planet Mercury is being pelted regularly by bits of dust from an ancient comet, a new study has concluded. Comet Encke has the shortest period of any comet, returning to perihelion every 3.3 years. The dust from the comet affects Mercury’s tenuous atmosphere and may lead to a new understanding on how these airless bodies maintain their ethereal envelopes.

News

Asteroid ripped apart to form star’s glowing ring system

11 November 2015 Astronomy Now

The remains of a fatal interaction between a dead star and its asteroid supper have been observed in detail for the first time. An international team of astronomers used the Very Large Telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile and other observatories to study the shattered remains of an asteroid around a stellar remnant — a white dwarf.

News

Simpler planet test classifies 99 percent of all known exoplanets

11 November 2015 Astronomy Now

Nine years ago, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) defined what it takes to be a planet, but left the classification of exoplanets for future consideration. With exoplanet discoveries now numbering close to 5,000, UCLA professor of planetary astronomy Jean-Luc Margot describes a simple “planet test” that can be readily applied to bodies orbiting the Sun and other stars.

News

Mars’ moon Phobos is slowly falling apart

10 November 2015 Astronomy Now

Orbiting a mere 3,700 miles above the surface of Mars, Phobos is closer to its planet than any other moon in the solar system. Mars’ gravity is drawing in the 17 × 14 × 11 mile body by about 6.6 feet (2 metres) every hundred years. The long, shallow grooves lining the surface of Phobos are likely early signs of its structural failure as scientists expect it to be pulled apart.

Equipment

Baader Polaris — measuring and guiding eyepiece

10 November 2015 Steve Ringwood

Reviewer Steve Ringwood takes a look through a versatile 25mm eyepiece from Baader Planetarium that has a field cross-hatched by an illuminated reticule that permits measurement through sub-divided etched lines. It can also usefully employed as a guiding eyepiece as it is fitted with a T-2 thread, plus 1.25″ and 2″ nosepiece adapters are available.

News

Scientists explain why Moon rocks contain fewer volatiles than Earth’s

10 November 2015 Astronomy Now

Astronomers believe that the Earth-Moon system was created in a giant impact 4.5 billion years ago. Southwest Research Institute scientists combined dynamical, thermal, and chemical models of the Moon’s formation to explain the relative lack of volatile elements like potassium, sodium, and zinc in lunar rocks, when compared to those of Earth.

News

New Horizons finds possible ice volcanoes on Pluto

9 November 2015 Astronomy Now

From possible ice volcanoes to twirling moons, NASA’s New Horizons science team is discussing more than 50 exciting discoveries about Pluto at this week’s 47th Annual Meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences. The two cryovolcano candidates are large features measuring tens of miles across and several miles high.

News

Enhanced Taurid meteor shower lights up November skies

9 November 2015 Ade Ashford

The terrestrial fireworks of recent Bonfire Night(s) celebrations in the UK have masked a rather unusual display of natural illuminations, as we are in the midst of the Taurid meteor showers. However, this year’s display of celestial fireworks not only occurs near a new Moon for dark skies, but the double-peaked shower is currently showing signs of unusually high activity similar to the fireball-rich display of 2005.