Picture This

Crash course?

20 December 2016 Astronomy Now

It may look as though Saturn’s moon Mimas is crashing through the rings in this image taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, but Mimas is actually 45,000 kilometres (28,000 miles) away from the rings.

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Mars rover’s drill out of action

18 December 2016 Stephen Clark

The rock-coring drill fixed to the end of the Curiosity rover’s robot arm has suspended operations to allow engineers on the ground to diagnose, and officials hope correct, a problem traced to the mechanism that pushes the drill bit onto rocks to collect powder samples.

Observing

See the Moon hide Aldebaran in Taurus on 12-13 December

10 December 2016 Ade Ashford

On the night of 12-13 December, the waxing gibbous Moon glides in front of the loose open star cluster known as the Hyades in the constellation of Taurus, culminating in the occultation of bright star Aldebaran around 5:24am GMT for observers in the British Isles. In North America, the event occurs at a more sociable hour late into the evening of 12 December.

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Cassini beams back first images from new orbit

9 December 2016 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has sent to Earth its first views of Saturn’s atmosphere since beginning the latest phase of its mission. The new images show scenes from high above Saturn’s northern hemisphere, including the planet’s intriguing hexagon-shaped jet stream.

Picture This

It’s chaos at Saturn’s moon Hyperion

5 December 2016 Astronomy Now

The moon Hyperion tumbles as it orbits Saturn. Hyperion’s spin axis has a chaotic orientation in time, meaning that it is essentially impossible to predict how the moon will be spinning in the future.

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Could there be life in Pluto’s ocean?

4 December 2016 Astronomy Now

Pluto is thought to possess a subsurface ocean, which is not so much a sign of water as it is a tremendous clue that other dwarf planets in deep space also may contain similarly exotic oceans, naturally leading to the question of life, said one co-investigator with NASA’s New Horizon.