News

Astronomers find giant planet around very young star CI Tauri

27 May 2016 Astronomy Now

Contradicting the long-standing idea that large Jupiter-mass planets take a minimum of 10 million years to form, astronomers have just announced the discovery of a giant planet in close orbit around a 2 million-year-old star that still retains a disc of circumstellar gas and dust. CI Tau b is at least eight times larger than Jupiter and 450 light-years from Earth.

News

A ‘tail’ of cometary twins buzzing Earth on 21-22 March

19 March 2016 Astronomy Now

Comet 252P/LINEAR will zip past Earth on Monday, 21 March at a range of about 3.3 million miles. The following day, comet P/2016 BA14 will safely fly by our planet at a distance of about 2.2 million miles, or nine times the distance to the Moon. This will be the second closest flyby of a comet in recorded history next to comet D/1770 L1 (Lexell) in 1770.

Picture This

The frozen canyons of Pluto’s north pole

26 February 2016 Astronomy Now

This ethereal scene captured by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft tells yet another story of Pluto’s diversity of geological and compositional features — this time in an enhanced colour image of the north polar area. A canyon about 45 miles wide runs close to the north pole, its degraded walls suggesting evidence for an ancient period of tectonics.

Picture This

New Horizons returns full view of Pluto’s stunning crescent

30 October 2015 Astronomy Now

In September, the New Horizons team released a stunning but incomplete image of Pluto’s crescent. Thanks to updated processing work by the science team, New Horizons is releasing the entire, breathtaking image of Pluto. The team also released images showing extended mapping of the dwarf planet’s “heart” feature and young craters on Pluto’s largest moon, Charon.

News

Historic Brashear telescope saved for restoration in NZ Dark Sky Reserve

19 September 2015 Ade Ashford

A 125-year-old, 18-inch (46-cm) aperture Brashear refracting telescope with an illustrious history that has languished in storage for half a century has found a new Antipodean home. It marks the first step on the road to restoring the 7-ton, 8-metre-long instrument to its former glory, destined to become the centrepiece of a public outreach Astronomy Centre near the shore of Lake Tekapo in the heart of New Zealand’s South Island.

News

Dwarf galaxy WLM becomes star-forming powerhouse

10 September 2015 Astronomy Now

Nearby dwarf galaxy Wolf—Lundmark—Melotte (WLM) poses an intriguing mystery: How is it able to form brilliant star clusters without the dusty, gas-rich environments found in larger galaxies? The answer, astronomers believe, lies in densely packed and previously unrecognised nuggets of star-forming material sprinkled throughout the galaxy.

News

Historic 24-inch Clark refractor to reopen at Lowell Observatory

20 August 2015 Astronomy Now

Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona is famous as the place where dwarf planet Pluto was discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930, but it has an illustrious 121-year-old record of astronomical research and discovery. After a 20-month-long restoration project, Lowell’s historic 24-inch Alvan Clark refractor is poised to reopen for public observing sessions.

News

Pluto: the ice plot thickens

16 July 2015 Astronomy Now

The latest spectra from New Horizons Ralph instrument reveal an abundance of methane ice, but with striking differences from place to place across the frozen surface of Pluto. Methane ice in the dwarf planet’s north polar cap is diluted in a thick, transparent slab of nitrogen ice.

News

The children of Pluto: reflections on Clyde Tombaugh

10 July 2015 Astronomy Now

Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto over 85 years ago. He died in 1997, but during the historic 14 July flyby of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, Clyde’s children Alden and Annette Tombaugh will be special guests at mission headquarters. Here they reflect on their father’s legacy.