Observing

Halloween near-Earth asteroid 2003 YT1 has Polaris encounter on 2 November

31 October 2016 Ade Ashford

At 9:24am GMT on 31 October 2016, near-Earth asteroid 164121 (2003 YT1) will safely fly by at a distance of 3.2 million miles (5.2 million kilometres), or 13.5 times the distance of the Moon. Furthermore, this 1.1-mile-(1.7-kilometre)-wide Apollo asteroid also passes very close to Polaris early on 2 November, creating a rare astrophotographic and observing opportunity.

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Lunar impact: how the Moon’s Mare Orientale was formed

29 October 2016 Astronomy Now

The Moon’s Orientale basin is an archetype of “multi-ring” basins found throughout the solar system. New research has enabled scientists to reconstruct Orientale’s formation using data from NASA’s GRAIL mission. It is now thought that the 580-mile-wide feature was created 3.8 billion years ago by an impacting object some 40 miles across travelling at about 9 miles per second.

Picture This

A death star’s ghostly glow

28 October 2016 Astronomy Now

The eerie glow of a dead star, which exploded long ago as a supernova, reveals itself in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of the Crab Nebula in the constellation of Taurus. But don’t be fooled. The ghoulish-looking object still has a pulse. Buried at its centre is the star’s telltale heart — a neutron star which beats with rhythmic precision.

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ALMA witnesses the birth of a triple-star system

28 October 2016 Astronomy Now

A rare triple-star system surrounded by a disc with a spiral structure has been discovered by a global team of researchers. Recent observations from the Atacama Large Millimetre / submillimetre Array (ALMA) resulted in the discovery, lending support for evidence of disc fragmentation — a process leading to the formation of young binary and multiple star systems.

Observing

See the old crescent Moon close to Jupiter in the morning sky

27 October 2016 Ade Ashford

UK observers with a clear sky an hour before sunrise on Friday 28 October should look very low in the east-southeast to see the slim crescent of the 27-day-old Moon less than four lunar diameters away from largest planet Jupiter. The Moon and Jupiter are also joined by third-magnitude double star gamma (γ) Virginis, commonly known as Porrima.

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Breakthrough Listen to search for intelligent life around weird star

27 October 2016 Astronomy Now

Tabby’s star, otherwise known as KIC 8462852, has provoked so much excitement over the past year, with speculation that it hosts a highly advanced civilisation capable of building orbiting megastructures, that UC Berkeley’s Breakthrough Listen project is devoting hours of time on the Green Bank radio telescope to see if it can detect any extraterrestrial signals.

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Unexpected gaseous haloes detected around distant quasars

26 October 2016 Astronomy Now

An international team of astronomers has discovered glowing gas clouds surrounding distant quasars. The new survey of these active galaxies indicates that haloes around quasars are far more common than expected. The properties of the haloes in this surprising find are also in striking disagreement with currently accepted theories of galaxy formation in the early universe.

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Mysterious flaring X-ray objects discovered in nearby galaxies

26 October 2016 Astronomy Now

Astronomers have found a pair of extraordinary cosmic objects that dramatically burst in X-rays, flaring up to become about a hundred times brighter in less than a minute, before returning to original X-ray levels after about an hour. This discovery may represent a new class of explosive events found in space.

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Hotspots in Cygnus A: an active galactic nucleus

25 October 2016 Astronomy Now

Newly obtained radio images of the dramatic bipolar jets of charged particles being ejected from the nucleus of galaxy Cygnus A were able to resolve hotspots in the jets at the places where they impact the surrounding medium. A bright radio galaxy such as this can beam as much as one trillion solar luminosities of radiation into space at those wavelengths.