Observing

See the Moon pass in front of Neptune on 6 December

4 December 2016 Ade Ashford

For the seventh and final time this year, the Moon occults outermost planet Neptune on Tuesday 6 December. Weather permitting, this event will be seen over a swathe of the Western Hemisphere including the northeastern USA, eastern Canada, Greenland, Iceland and the western British Isles.

Picture This

Tangled threads weave through cosmic oddity

4 December 2016 Astronomy Now

New observations from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have revealed the intricate structure of the galaxy NGC 4696 in greater detail than ever before. The elliptical galaxy is a beautiful cosmic oddity with a bright core wrapped in system of dark, swirling, thread-like filaments.

News

All’s quiet on the Sun

3 December 2016 Astronomy Now

This week the Sun was hitting its lowest level of solar activity since 2011 as it gradually marches toward solar minimum. See a near spotless Sun revolve in this video from the Solar Dynamic Observatory.

Observing

See the crescent Moon near Venus on 3 December

1 December 2016 Ade Ashford

Observers in the UK will find Venus almost directly below the three-day-old Moon low in the south-southwest in deep twilight an hour after sunset on 3 December. The pair will fit in the same field of view of most 8x and 7x binoculars, but a deep-sky treat lies in store for telescope users.

News

LIGO resumes search for gravitational waves

1 December 2016 Astronomy Now

After a series of upgrades, the twin detectors of LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, have turned back on and resumed their search for ripples in the fabric of space and time known as gravitational waves. Now boasting a 25 percent improvement in sensitivity, LIGO recommenced science observations at 4pm GMT on 30 November.

News

A new perspective on how Pluto’s “icy heart” came to be

1 December 2016 Astronomy Now

Pluto’s “icy heart” is a bright, two-lobed feature on its surface that was discovered by NASA’s New Horizons team in 2015. The heart’s western lobe, informally named Sputnik Planitia, is a deep basin generally thought to have been created by a smaller body striking Pluto at extremely high speed, but a new study suggests a different origin.