Picture This

Hubble reveals chemical fingerprint of emission-line star

29 February 2016 Astronomy Now

Showcased at the centre of this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is an emission-line star known as IRAS 12196-6300 that lies some 2,300 light-years from Earth in the southern constellation of Crux. Under 10 million years old and not yet burning hydrogen at its core — unlike the Sun — this star is still in its infancy.

News

Unravelling the Milky Way’s Central Molecular Zone

29 February 2016 Astronomy Now

Surrounding the black hole at the centre of our Milky Way galaxy and stretching out to about 700 light-years, is a dense zone of activity called the Central Molecular Zone (CMZ). It contains many dense molecular clouds that would normally be expected to produce new stars, but which are instead eerily desolate. Where did the CMZ come from? No place else in the Milky Way is remotely like it.

Observing

See the Moon, Mars and Saturn triple conjunction of 1 March

29 February 2016 Ade Ashford

In the pre-dawn twilight of Tuesday, 1 March, the 21-day-old waning gibbous Moon acts as a convenient celestial guide to planets Saturn and Mars. For observers in the centre of the British Isles, the best time to see this triple conjunction is shortly before 6am GMT, when the trio are highest in the sky to the south.

Equipment

Celestron Star Pointer Pro

28 February 2016 Steve Ringwood

Red dot finders have been around for some time now, adopting various guises in their ongoing improvements. Yet with this new version from Celestron, there is definitely a new slant on their design. Nested binary rings quite literally target an object as its own bullseye, effectively keeping an object in view to enable perfect alignment, says reviewer Steve Ringwood.

News

NASA’s IBEX observations pin down interstellar magnetic field

28 February 2016 Astronomy Now

Immediately after its 2008 launch, NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, spotted a curiosity in a thin slice of space: More particles streamed in through a long, skinny swath in the sky than anywhere else. The origin of the so-called IBEX ribbon was unknown — but its very existence opened doors to observing what lies outside our solar system.

News

Researchers home in on likely whereabouts of Planet Nine

27 February 2016 Astronomy Now

Using observations from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, a team of French astronomers from the Institut de mécanique céleste et de calcul des éphémérides, and the laboratory GeoAzur have been able to specify the possible positions of a ninth planet in the Solar System.

News

Supermassive black holes banish matter into cosmic voids

26 February 2016 Astronomy Now

On the largest scales, galaxies and everything they contain are concentrated into filaments that stretch around the edge of enormous voids. Data from the Illustris project, a large computer simulation of the evolution and formation of galaxies, suggests that the black holes at the centre of every galaxy are helping to send matter into the loneliest places in the universe.

Picture This

The frozen canyons of Pluto’s north pole

26 February 2016 Astronomy Now

This ethereal scene captured by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft tells yet another story of Pluto’s diversity of geological and compositional features — this time in an enhanced colour image of the north polar area. A canyon about 45 miles wide runs close to the north pole, its degraded walls suggesting evidence for an ancient period of tectonics.

News

Surprise discovery of new Southern Hemisphere meteor shower

25 February 2016 Astronomy Now

A new network of video surveillance cameras in New Zealand detected a surprise meteor shower on New Year’s Eve. The shower is called the Volantids, named after the constellation Volans, the flying fish, from which the meteoroids appear to stream towards us. The shower was not seen the year before and is not known from past radar observations. It could be an early warning that we should be looking for a potentially hazardous comet in that orbit.

News

‘Birthplace’ of a fast radio burst located for the first time

25 February 2016 Astronomy Now

An international team of scientists led by a Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project scientist has for the first time managed to identify the location of a fast radio burst using a combination of radio and optical telescopes, allowing them to confirm the current cosmological model of the distribution of matter in the universe.