Picture This

Hubble finds a festive snow angel

24 December 2015 Astronomy Now

The bipolar star-forming region Sharpless 2-106 some 2,000 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus looks like a soaring, celestial snow angel in this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Twin lobes of super-hot gas, glowing blue in this image, stretch outward from the central young and massive star. This hot gas creates the “wings” of our angel.

Picture This

The Atoms for Peace

24 December 2015 Keith Cooper

Some 220 million light years away lies this wreckage of a billion-year old cosmic collision, formed from two galaxies that crashed into one another and merged.

News

Asteroid 2003 SD220 sleighs by Earth on Christmas Eve

24 December 2015 Astronomy Now

During the month of December, the Planetary Radar Group at Arecibo Observatory has observed near-Earth asteroid 2003 SD220, which will make its closest approach to Earth on Christmas Eve. Although designated as “potentially hazardous,” this asteroid will be 28 times further away than our Moon and therefore poses no present danger to Earth.

News

Gullies on Mars sculpted by dry ice rather than liquid water?

23 December 2015 Astronomy Now

Mars’ gullies may be formed by dry ice processes rather than flowing liquid water, as previously thought. This is the conclusion of a study conducted by two French scientists published in Nature Geoscience. They show that, during Martian late winter and spring, underneath the seasonal CO2 ice layer heated by the Sun, intense gas fluxes can induce gas-lubricated debris flows which look like water-sculpted gullies on Earth.

News

Chinese lunar rover’s rock analysis reveals a more diverse Moon

23 December 2015 Astronomy Now

China’s Yutu rover finds volcanic rocks unlike those returned by earlier missions, offering tantalising clues to the period of lunar volcanism that suggest the Moon was never a fully homogenised body like the Earth. The basalts the rover examined are a new type, chemically different from those retrieved by the Apollo and Luna missions 40 years ago.

Equipment

Orion StarSeeker III 90mm GoTo Mak–Cass telescope

23 December 2015 Steve Ringwood

Thirsting for the stars, novices in astronomy are often seeking a one-stop telescope solution to quench these initial desires. It is generally advised that this preliminary instrumental step be made with an able and economical all-rounder. Reviewer Steve Ringwood believes that this ‘scope, aimed at the beginner, hits all the right notes.

Picture This

Sparkling Stephan’s Quintet

22 December 2015 Astronomy Now

The Stephan’s Quintet of galaxies in the constellation Pegasus was discovered by astronomer Édouard Stephan in 1877. This image combines observations performed at three different wavelengths, with ESA’s Herschel and XMM-Newton space observatories as well as with ground-based telescopes, to reveal the different components of the five galaxies.

News

Einstein’s Cross under the gravitational microlens

22 December 2015 Astronomy Now

A team of Spanish astrophysicists has obtained precise measurements for the innermost region of a disc of matter in orbital motion around a supermassive black hole in the lensed quasar known as Einstein’s Cross (Q2237-0305). It constitutes the most precise set of measurements achieved to date for such a small and distant object.

News

Cassini completes final close flyby of Saturn’s moon Enceladus

22 December 2015 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has begun transmitting data and images from the mission’s 22nd and final close flyby of Saturn’s active moon Enceladus on Saturday, 19 December. Cassini has made so many breathtaking discoveries about this icy moon, its geologic activity and global ocean that lies beneath its icy crust, yet so much more remains to be done to determine if this tiny ocean world could harbour life.

Picture This

Hubble captures infant star’s artistic outburst

21 December 2015 Astronomy Now

The artistic outburst of an extremely young star, in the earliest phase of formation, is captured in this spectacular image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The colourful wisps, found in the lower left of the image, are painted onto the sky by a young star cocooned in the partially illuminated cloud of obscuring dust seen to the upper right.