News

NASA narrows design for rocket to launch samples off of Mars

29 April 2020 Stephen Clark

After years of studies, test-firings and a survey of U.S. industry in preparation for launch of a Mars Sample Return mission in 2026, NASA has settled on a solid-fueled design for a miniature rocket with a first-of-its-kind purpose: Launching a payload from Mars for a trip back to Earth.

Observing

See the waning crescent Moon meet the dawn planets, 15–16 April 2020

9 April 2020 Ade Ashford

There’s a lot of planetary activity in the dawn sky in mid-April. If you’re an early riser in the British Isles, let the waning crescent Moon be your guide to the naked-eye planets Jupiter, Saturn and Mars on 15 and 16 April 2020. Typical 7×50 or 10×50 binoculars will show these attractive conjunctions well, while the smallest of telescopes also reveal some of Jupiter’s bright Galilean moons.

Observing

See the old Moon join a dawn planetary parade, 18–19 March

11 March 2020 Ade Ashford

If you’re an early riser in the British Isles, let the waning crescent Moon be your guide to three naked-eye planets – Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – at dawn on 18 and 19 March 2020. This celestial conjunction occurs in the constellation of Sagittarius where you can see all four Solar System bodies within the span of a fist at arm’s length. Look for attractive binocular conjunctions too.