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The Milky Way’s clean and tidy galactic neighbour

27 January 2016 Astronomy Now

Many galaxies are chock-full of dust, while others have occasional dark streaks of opaque cosmic soot swirling in amongst their gas and stars. However, the irregular dwarf galaxy IC 1613 contains very little cosmic dust, allowing astronomers to explore its contents with great clarity. This is not just a matter of appearances; the galaxy’s cleanliness is vital to our understanding of the universe around us.

Observing

See the Moon’s close brush with Jupiter on the night of 27—28 January

27 January 2016 Ade Ashford

Observers in the British Isles and western Europe with a clear sky low to the east around 10pm local time on Wednesday, 27 January can see the rising 18-day-old waning gibbous Moon in a close conjunction with Jupiter, the solar system’s largest planet. Jupiter draws steadily closer to Earth and grows in apparent size over the coming weeks.

News

Space-Earth system produces highest-resolution astronomical image

27 January 2016 Astronomy Now

Using an orbiting radio-astronomy satellite combined with 15 ground-based radio telescopes, astronomers have made the most-detailed astronomical image yet, revealing new insights about a gorging black hole in a galaxy 900 million light-years away. The image has the resolving power of a telescope about 62,500 miles wide, or almost eight times the diameter of the Earth.

News

Galaxy clusters reveal new dark matter insights

26 January 2016 Astronomy Now

Galaxy clusters, which consist of thousands of galaxies, are important for exploring dark matter because they reside in a region where such matter is much denser than average. Scientists believe that the heavier a cluster is, the more dark matter it has in its environment. But new research suggests the connection is more complicated than that.

Book Reviews

The Knowledge. Stargazing

26 January 2016 Steve Ringwood

Maggie Aderin-Pocock’s book runs the gamut of astronomy’s origins, classes of celestial objects, their appearance and how amateur and professional astronomers study them in ten easily digestible chapters. “Not so much a beginners’ guide; more a taster … I feel that unappeased appetites will soon be searching for richer meat,” says reviewer Steve Ringwood.

Book Reviews

Go, Flight! The Unsung Heroes of Mission Control, 1965-1992

26 January 2016 Astronomy Now

Scores of brave Major Toms have been fired into space atop the most powerful rockets known to man, yet the responsibility for getting them there — and back — rested with the mission controllers in Houston. “Unsung heroes? Heroes, certainly. But after this firecracker of a book, no longer unsung,” says reviewer Andy Sawers.

Book Reviews

Meteorite: Nature and Culture

26 January 2016 Astronomy Now

The focus of Maria Golia’s book is not in the scientific details, but squarely on the place of meteorites in various aspects of human culture. Interspersed among the various sections are full-page images of meteorites as viewed under the microscope. “This is an extremely well-researched book … renewed my interest in meteorites in general,” says reviewer John Rowlands.

News

A lonely planet and its distant star

26 January 2016 Astronomy Now

A team of astronomers in the UK, USA and Australia have found a planet, until now thought to be a free floating, in a huge, 900,000-year orbit around its star. Incredibly the object, designated as 2MASS J2126, is about 1 trillion (1 million million) kilometres from the star, or about 7,000 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun.

News

Theorists propose a new method to probe the beginning of the universe

25 January 2016 Astronomy Now

How did the universe begin? And what came before the Big Bang? Astrophysicists have asked these questions ever since discovering that our universe is expanding. New research suggests that subatomic heavy particles act as “primordial standard clocks,” offering a way of probing the beginning of space and time to determine which of the competing cosmological theories is correct.

Picture This

Giant radio jets from the wrong kind of galaxy

25 January 2016 Astronomy Now

The edge-on spiral galaxy captured in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image lies about one billion light-years away in the constellation of Eridanus. In 2003, the galaxy was discovered to possess giant jets of superheated gas emitting in the radio part of the spectrum. These jets have long been associated with the cores of giant elliptical galaxies, but are rare in spirals.