Picture This

New views of dwarf planet Ceres as Dawn moves higher

19 November 2016 Astronomy Now

The brightest area on Ceres stands out amid shadowy, cratered terrain in a dramatic new view from NASA’s Dawn spacecraft, taken as it looked off to the side of the dwarf planet. Dawn snapped this image from about 920 miles (1,480 kilometres) above Ceres in its fifth science orbit, in which the angle of the Sun was different from that in previous orbits.

Picture This

The subtle celestial swarm of NGC 4789A

14 November 2016 Astronomy Now

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows NGC 4789A, a dwarf irregular galaxy in the constellation of Coma Berenices. It certainly lives up to its name — the stars that call this galaxy home are smeared out across the sky in an apparently disorderly and irregular jumble, giving NGC 4789A a far more subtle and abstract appearance than its glitzy spiral and elliptical cousins.

Picture This

The details are in the rings

12 November 2016 Astronomy Now

This view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft showcases some of the amazingly detailed structure of Saturn’s rings. This view looks toward the sunlit side of the rings from about four degrees above the ring plane.

Picture This

Cassini sees drifting summer clouds on Titan

9 November 2016 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft watched clouds of methane moving across the far northern regions of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, on 29 and 30 October 2016. Several sets of clouds develop, move over the surface and fade during the course of a movie sequence spanning 11 hours, with one frame taken every 20 minutes. These clouds are measured to move at a speed of about 14 to 22 miles per hour.

Picture This

Hubble captures a galactic cannibal

7 November 2016 Astronomy Now

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image reveals NGC 1222, a galaxy with a rather eventful story to tell. NGC 1222 has been described as a peculiar example of a so-called lenticular galaxy, but one that exhibits very recent star formation on a huge scale — an event known as a starburst — due to having recently consumed two dwarf galaxies.

Picture This

Mars rover finds meteorite

6 November 2016 Astronomy Now

The dark, smooth-surfaced object at the centre of this image taken by NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover was examined with laser pulses and confirmed to be an iron-nickel meteorite.

Picture This

The view from above

1 November 2016 Astronomy Now

Saturn appears as a serene globe amid tranquil rings in this view from NASA’s Cassini spacecraft above the planet’s pole.

Picture This

A death star’s ghostly glow

28 October 2016 Astronomy Now

The eerie glow of a dead star, which exploded long ago as a supernova, reveals itself in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image of the Crab Nebula in the constellation of Taurus. But don’t be fooled. The ghoulish-looking object still has a pulse. Buried at its centre is the star’s telltale heart — a neutron star which beats with rhythmic precision.

Picture This

The changing colours of Saturn’s north pole

25 October 2016 Astronomy Now

Scientists are investigating potential causes for the change in colour of the region inside the north-polar hexagon on Saturn, thought to be an effect of the planet’s seasons. In particular, the change to a more golden hue may be due to the increased production of photochemical hazes in the atmosphere as the north pole approaches summer solstice in May 2017.

Picture This

Hubble reveals NGC 362, a young globular cluster

24 October 2016 Astronomy Now

Globular clusters offer some of the most spectacular sights in the night sky. These ornate spheres contain hundreds of thousands of stars, and reside in the outskirts of galaxies. The Milky Way contains over 150 such clusters — and the example shown in this NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image, named NGC 362, is one of the most unusual ones.