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.
A hundred days have passed since Mars was closest to Earth this year, but the Red Planet can still be seen in the early evening sky close to the jewel of the solar system, Saturn. If you wish to identify this pair of planets, then a convenient celestial marker in the form of the waxing crescent Moon passes by on the evenings of 8—9 September in the UK and Western Europe.
Skywatchers in the UK and Western Europe should cast their gaze low in the southern sky late into the evening of Thursday 6 July to see the 12-day-old waxing gibbous Moon in conjunction with ringed planet Saturn. The pair are separated by just 3½ degrees, nicely framed in a typical 10×50 binocular. For telescope users, the night of 6—7 July is also good for spotting Saturn’s bright moons. We show you what to look for and where.