Observing

See the crescent Moon pass in front of star gamma Librae on 24 September

23 September 2017 Ade Ashford

A waxing crescent Moon hanging low above the horizon in evening twilight is always a pleasant sight to behold, but observers in the UK watching the 4-day-old Moon through a telescope around 40 minutes after sunset on Sunday, 24 September have an additional treat in store in the form of an occultation of naked-eye star gamma (γ) Librae.

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Arecibo radar telescope battered by Hurricane Maria

22 September 2017 Stephen Clark

Initial reports from the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico indicate powerful winds from Hurricane Maria destroyed an antenna and damaged the radio telescope’s huge 300-metre (1,000-foot) dish reflector, but the bulk of the facility remains intact and workers sheltered there were unharmed.

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Scientists firm up flyby plan for New Horizons’ next destination

21 September 2017 Stephen Clark

Now more than two years outbound from its historic encounter with Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft is on target for a fleeting flyby less than 2,200 miles from 2014 MU69, an icy, city-sized world set to become the most distant object ever visited, just after midnight Jan. 1, 2019. Scientists now say the probe may be able to pursue another destination some time in the 2020s.

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Two stars, three dimensions, and oodles of energy

19 September 2017 Astronomy Now

For decades, astronomers have known about irregular outbursts from the double star system V745 Sco, which is located about 25,000 light-years from Earth. Astronomers were caught by surprise when previous outbursts from this system were seen in 1937 and 1989. When the system erupted on February 6, 2014, however, scientists were ready to observe the event with a suite of telescopes including NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory.

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New supernova analysis reframes dark energy debate

18 September 2017 Astronomy Now

The accelerating expansion of the universe may not be real, but could just be an apparent effect, according to new research. The new study finds the fit of Type Ia supernovae to a model universe with no dark energy to be very slightly better than the fit to the standard dark energy model.

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NASA’s Hubble captures blistering pitch-black planet

17 September 2017 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has observed a planet outside our solar system that looks as black as fresh asphalt because it eats light rather than reflecting it back into space. This light-eating prowess is due to the planet’s unique capability to trap at least 94 percent of the visible starlight falling into its atmosphere.