Observing

Catch Mars and Venus in the early evening sky of late November

25 November 2016 Ade Ashford

Find a location that offers you an unobstructed view of the horizon from south to southwest an hour after sunset. With clear skies, you’ll be able to follow Venus and Mars from night to night on their celestial peregrinations through the constellations of Sagittarius and Capricornus. The two planets almost keep pace with each other throughout the remainder of November.

News

Large number of dwarf galaxies discovered in the early universe

25 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Researchers have found a large population of distant dwarf galaxies that could reveal important details about a productive period of star formation in the universe billions of years ago. It is believed that dwarf galaxies played a significant role during the so-called reionisation era in transforming the dark early universe into one that is bright, ionised and transparent.

News

International Astronomical Union formally approves 227 star names

24 November 2016 Astronomy Now

The creation of a specialised IAU Working Group, the Working Group on Star Names (WGSN), was approved by the IAU Executive Committee in May 2016 to formalise star names that have been used colloquially for centuries. WGSN has now established a new catalogue of IAU star names, with the first set of 227 approved names published on the IAU website.

News

Worldwide pro-am help sought for comet trio study

24 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Amateur and professional astronomers are invited to provide observations of comets 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák, 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková, and 46P/Wirtanen that will pass by Earth at distances ranging from 0.08 to 0.15 astronomical units. Such close approaches of a trio of comets within the next two years are rare and typically occur only once every few decades.

News

Martian ice deposit holds as much water as Lake Superior

23 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Researchers using NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have determined that frozen beneath a region of cracked and pitted plains on the Red Planet there lies about as much water as fills Lake Superior, largest of the Great Lakes. Scientists examined part of Mars’ Utopia Planitia region with the orbiter’s ground-penetrating instrument, revealing a deposit more extensive in area than the state of New Mexico.

News

Saturn probe prepares for dramatic ring-grazing orbits

23 November 2016 Astronomy Now

A thrilling ride is about to begin for NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. Engineers have been pumping up the probe’s orbit around Saturn this year to increase its tilt with respect to the planet’s equator and rings. And on 30 November, following a gravitational nudge from Saturn’s moon Titan, Cassini will enter the first phase of the mission’s dramatic endgame.

News

Newly discovered stars shed light on Milky Way’s formation

23 November 2016 Astronomy Now

An astronomer from Liverpool John Moores University has discovered a new family of stars in the core of the Milky Way which provides new insights into the early stages of the galaxy’s formation. The discovery has shed new light on the origins of globular clusters formed at the beginning of the Milky Way’s history.

News

Spiral-like patterns of star formation discovered in old galaxies

22 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Elliptical and Lenticular galaxies (historically referred to as early-type galaxies) are thought to be no longer giving birth to new stars. Now, a team led by astronomers from the Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço (IA) in Portugal has discovered optical spiral features in the outskirts of three nearby early-type galaxies, which points to a still ongoing inside-out growth.

Equipment

Orion Funscope Astro Dazzle 4.5” reflector kit

22 November 2016 Steve Ringwood

Steve Ringwood appraises the Orion Funscope Astro Dazzle, an eye-catching 4½-inch (114-mm) f/4.4 Newtonian reflector on a tabletop Dobsonian mount designed for beginners. The pre-assembled instrument possesses an inherent simplicity that will not challenge, with an aperture that brings a wealth of astronomy’s best to the viewer, he says.

News

A stellar circle of life near Cygnus X-3

22 November 2016 Astronomy Now

A discovery that provides a new way to study how stars form has been captured in a new portrait from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Smithsonian’s Submillimetre Array (SMA). A cloud that is giving birth to stars has been observed to reflect X-rays from Cygnus X-3, a source of X-rays produced by a system where a massive star is slowly being eaten by its companion black hole or neutron star.