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.
Even casual skywatchers cannot fail to notice brightest planet Venus currently hanging like a lantern above the southwest horizon at dusk. But as Venus moves eastwards through Aquarius on successive nights, it draws closer to outermost (and faintest) planet Neptune until the pair reach a particularly close conjunction on the UK evening of Monday, 27 January.
Observers in the UK and Western Europe should find an observing location offering an unobscured eastern horizon an hour before sunrise on Sunday, 10 September to see innermost planet Mercury just 0.6 degrees from Regulus, the brightest star in Leo. Conspicuous planet Venus is your convenient celestial guide to finding Regulus, Mercury and Mars.