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Pirouetting Pleiads provide clues to stellar structure and evolution

13 August 2016 Astronomy Now

Like cosmic ballet dancers, the stars of the Pleiades cluster are spinning, but all at different speeds. By watching these stellar dancers, NASA’s Kepler space telescope has helped amass the most complete catalogue of rotation periods for stars in a cluster. This information can provide insight into where and how planets form around these stars, and how such stars evolve.

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2007 OR10: the largest unnamed world in the solar system

12 May 2016 Astronomy Now

By combining data from two space observatories, astronomers have revealed something surprising: a 955-mile-wide dwarf planet named 2007 OR10 is significantly larger than previously thought. Although its 547-year-long elliptical orbit brings it nearly as close to the Sun as Neptune, 2007 OR10 is currently twice as far from the Sun as Pluto.

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Searching for distant and wandering worlds

10 April 2016 Astronomy Now

In a global exoplanet observation experiment, NASA’s Kepler K2 mission and Earth-based observatories on six continents hope to survey millions of stars toward the centre of our Milky Way galaxy. Using a technique called gravitational microlensing, scientists will hunt for exoplanets that orbit far from their host star and for free-floating exoplanets that wander between the stars.

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New Horizons finds possible ice volcanoes on Pluto

9 November 2015 Astronomy Now

From possible ice volcanoes to twirling moons, NASA’s New Horizons science team is discussing more than 50 exciting discoveries about Pluto at this week’s 47th Annual Meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences. The two cryovolcano candidates are large features measuring tens of miles across and several miles high.

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Latest New Horizons images of Pluto and Charon delight and amaze

10 September 2015 Astronomy Now

New close-up images of Pluto from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft reveal a bewildering variety of surface features that have scientists reeling because of their range and complexity. Images downlinked in the past few days reveal new features as diverse as possible dunes, nitrogen ice flows oozing out of mountainous regions onto plains, and even networks of valleys possibly carved by material flowing over Pluto’s surface.

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New Horizons discovers frozen plains in Pluto’s ‘heart’

17 July 2015 Astronomy Now

A new close-up image of Pluto from New Horizons reveals a vast, craterless plain that appears to be no more than 100 million years old. This frozen region is north of Pluto’s icy mountains, in the centre-left of the heart feature, informally named “Tombaugh Regio” (Tombaugh Region) after Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered Pluto in 1930.

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A “heart” from Pluto as New Horizons’ flyby begins

9 July 2015 Astronomy Now

Now just five days away from its close encounter with dwarf planet Pluto, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft beams back the first image to be received since the 4 July anomaly that sent the spacecraft into safe mode, indicating that all systems appear to be functioning normally. The flyby sequence of science observations is officially underway.