Mars may be almost four weeks past opposition, but it’s still an imposing sight low in the southern sky around local midnight. But if you are in any doubt about identifying the Red Planet, the waxing gibbous Moon acts as a convenient celestial guide late into the UK night of Thursday, 23 August. See both the Moon and the Red Planet in the same field of view of low-power binoculars.
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.
It may be famous for hosting the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) and 47 Tucanae, the second brightest globular cluster in the night sky, but the southern constellation of Tucana (The Toucan) also possesses a variety of unsung cosmic beauties. One such beauty is NGC 299, an open star cluster located within the SMC just under 200,000 light-years away.
Ancient variable stars, of a type known as RR Lyrae, have been discovered in the centre of the Milky Way for the first time. RR Lyrae stars typically reside in ancient stellar populations over 10 billion years old, such as globular clusters. These stars may even be the remains of the most massive and oldest surviving star cluster of the entire Milky Way.
Pulsars are rapidly spinning neutron stars that emit electromagnetic radiation in a sweeping, lighthouse-like beam. They are dramatic, powerful probes of supernovae, their progenitor stars. Astronomers have measured the orbital parameters of four millisecond pulsars in the globular cluster 47 Tucanae and modelled their possible formation and evolution paths.
It is only as recently as 2013 that astrophysicists found individual black holes in globular clusters via rare phenomena in which a companion star donates material to the black hole. New research by the University of Surrey on a globular cluster known as NGC 6101 shows that it could host several hundred black holes — a phenomenon that until recently was thought impossible.
A fossilised remnant of the early Milky Way harbouring stars of hugely different ages has been revealed by an international team of astronomers. Terzan 5 resembles a globular cluster, but is unlike any other cluster known. It contains stars remarkably similar to the most ancient stars in the Milky Way and bridges the gap in understanding between our galaxy’s past and its present.
Located some 22,000 light-years away in the southern constellation of Musca (The Fly), this tightly packed collection of stars — known as a globular cluster — goes by the name of NGC 4833. Globular clusters are thought to contain some of the oldest stars in our galaxy. This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the dazzling stellar group in all its glory.
This new image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope shows a cosmic tadpole, with its bright head and elongated tail, wriggling through the inky black pool of space. Tadpole galaxies are rare and difficult to find in the local universe. This striking example, named LEDA 36252, was explored as part of a Hubble study into their mysterious properties — with interesting results.
This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows the globular cluster NGC 1854, a gathering of white and blue stars in the southern constellation of Dorado. NGC 1854 is located about 135,000 light-years away, in the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), one of our closest cosmic neighbours and a satellite galaxy of the Milky Way.