News

Shrinking Mercury is tectonically active

28 September 2016 Astronomy Now

Images from NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft reveal previously undetected cliff-like landforms on Mercury that scientists believe must be geologically young, which means that the innermost planet is still contracting and that Earth is not the only tectonically active planet in our solar system, as previously thought.

Observing

See Mercury at its best in the east at dawn

25 September 2016 Ade Ashford

Mercury is currently putting on a fine show in the east before dawn. Find a UK location with an unobstructed view due east an hour before sunrise to see the innermost planet some 6 degrees above the horizon from about 25 September—5 October. The very old crescent Moon lies just 2 degrees from Mercury at dawn on Thursday, 29 September.

News

Earth’s carbon came from ancient collision with Mercury-like planet

6 September 2016 Astronomy Now

How did carbon-based life develop on Earth, given that most of the planet’s carbon should have either boiled away in the planet’s earliest days or become locked in Earth’s core? A new study suggests all of the planet’s life-giving carbon came from a collision with an embryonic planet similar to Mercury approximately 4.4 billion years ago.

Observing

Jupiter and Venus get extra close in the evening sky

27 August 2016 Ade Ashford

On Saturday 27 August at 22:32 UT (11:32pm BST), a spectacularly close conjunction occurs between Jupiter and Venus just 22 degrees west of the Sun in the constellation of Virgo, when the planetary pair are just 4 arcminutes, or one-fifteenth of a degree, apart. Here is our guide to the best locations and times to view this rare event.

News

Most volcanic activity on Mercury stopped about 3.5 billion years ago

7 August 2016 Astronomy Now

New research from North Carolina State University finds that major volcanic activity on the innermost planet most likely ended about 3.5 billion years ago — in stark contrast to the volcanic ages found for Venus, Mars and Earth. These findings add insight into the geological evolution of Mercury and what happens when rocky planets cool and contract.

Picture This

Mercury and International Space Station transit the Sun

1 June 2016 Astronomy Now

French astrophotographer Thierry Legault travelled to the suburbs of Philadelphia, USA to capture both the International Space Station and planet Mercury transiting the Sun on 9 May. This image includes multiple stacked frames to show the Station’s path in the fraction of a second it took to cross the Sun, while Mercury appears as a black dot at bottom-centre.

News

Scientists find fresh impact craters near the Moon’s south pole

23 May 2016 Astronomy Now

Using data from NASA’s Lunar reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists have discovered two geologically young craters — one 16 million, the other between 75 and 420 million years old — in the darkest regions of the Moon’s south pole. Such craters provide valuable information on the frequency of collisions in the solar system.

Uncategorized

How to view the transit of Mercury online on 9 May

8 May 2016 Astronomy Now

The 2016 transit of Mercury is upon us! With fine weather predicted across a large swathe of the British Isles, many will enjoy clear skies for at least some of this 7½-hour event. But if you don’t have a suitably equipped telescope, or are unable to attend any of the transit-viewing activities organised nationwide, you can still view the phenomenon online.