Israel’s Beresheet lunar lander captured this stunning image of the backside of the Moon around the time of a rocket firing to brake into an initial lunar orbit. Beresheet is scheduled to attempt a landing on Mare Serenitatis 11 April, becoming the first privately funded, non-superpower spacecraft to soft land on the moon. Flight controllers plan to circularize the orbit at an altitude of about 224 miles before preparing the small ship for landing. During the descent to Mare Serenitatis, an instrument will measure magnetic field strength and the spacecraft’s camera system will send back panoramic views across the Moon’s cratered surface. Intended primarily to promote interest in STEM careers and to serve as an inspiration to students across Israel and around the world, Beresheet is only expected to operate for a few days after landing.
Early risers will already be aware that there’s currently a lot of planetary activity in the morning sky, but at dawn in Western Europe on Monday, 2 April, Mars and Saturn will be just 1¼ degrees apart and seen in the same field of view of telescopes at 30x magnification. The waning Moon is close by on the mornings of 7 & 8 April too.
Jupiter is now less than a month from opposition (7 April), so it’s very much open season for the Solar System’s largest planet. If you’re unsure where to find it, the rising 17-day-old waning gibbous Moon passes just two degrees from Jupiter on the UK evening of 14 March. Virgo’s brightest star, first-magnitude Spica, makes it a great binocular triumvirate.