Observing

See the Moon pass in front of Neptune on 6 December

4 December 2016 Ade Ashford

For the seventh and final time this year, the Moon occults outermost planet Neptune on Tuesday 6 December. Weather permitting, this event will be seen over a swathe of the Western Hemisphere including the northeastern USA, eastern Canada, Greenland, Iceland and the western British Isles.

News

Flying observatory SOFIA expanding frontiers in solar system and beyond

16 November 2016 Astronomy Now

NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 100-inch diameter telescope to study the universe at infrared wavelengths that cannot be detected from ground-based observatories. SOFIA’s Science Cycle 5, which runs from February 2017 through January 2018, spans the entire field of astronomy from planetary science to extragalactic investigations.

Observing

Let the Moon be your guide to locating planet Neptune on 9 November

8 November 2016 Ade Ashford

The penultimate 2016 occultation of Neptune by the Moon occurs on 9 November for observers in Western Asia, Eastern Europe and northernmost Africa. In Western Europe, the nine-day-old waxing gibbous Moon merely brushes by the outermost planet, but the pair will be close enough to be seen within the same field of view of a typical binocular from the UK.

News

Saturn’s moon Dione harbours a subsurface ocean

4 October 2016 Astronomy Now

A subsurface ocean lies deep within Saturn’s moon Dione, according to new data from the Cassini mission. Two other moons of Saturn, Titan and Enceladus, are already known to hide global oceans beneath their icy crusts. Researchers believe that Dione’s crust floats on an ocean several tens of kilometres deep located 100 kilometres below the surface.

News

Origin of minor planets’ rings revealed

19 September 2016 Astronomy Now

Chariklo is the largest confirmed centaur, a minor planet orbiting the Sun between Saturn and Uranus. In 2014, two rings were discovered around Chariklo. Soon after, scientists discovered that rings likely exist around another centaur, Chiron, but the origin of these rings remained a mystery — until now.

Observing

See the Moon hide planet Neptune on 15 September

14 September 2016 Ade Ashford

Observers up for an extreme observing challenge may care to make an attempt at viewing the almost full Moon pass in front of planet Neptune soon after 8pm BST on Thursday, 15 September. The planet’s disappearance occurs at a low altitude in twilight for the British Isles, but can also be seen from a large swathe of Europe and western Russia.

News

Hunt for Planet 9 reveals extremely distant solar system objects

30 August 2016 Astronomy Now

In the race to discover a proposed ninth planet in our solar system, astronomers are conducting the largest, deepest survey for objects beyond Neptune and the Kuiper Belt. Nearly 10 percent of the sky has been explored to date using some of the largest and most advanced telescopes, revealing several never-before-seen objects at extreme distances from the Sun.

Observing

Let the Moon be your guide to finding Neptune on 23 July

18 July 2016 Ade Ashford

Outermost planet Neptune reaches opposition on 2 September 2016, this year marking the 170th anniversary of the gas giant’s discovery. But you don’t have to wait six week to observe the farthest known planet of the solar system, because the waning gibbous Moon drops close by in the small hours of Saturday, 23 July as seen from the British Isles.

News

New distant dwarf planet found beyond Neptune

11 July 2016 Astronomy Now

An international team of astronomers have discovered a new dwarf planet orbiting beyond Neptune. The object is roughly 435 miles in size, moving in a 700-year orbit that takes it more than 120 times further from the Sun than Earth. Designated 2015 RR245, it was found using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on Maunakea, Hawaii.

News

Hubble confirms new dark spot on Neptune

23 June 2016 Astronomy Now

New images captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope (HST) confirm the presence of a dark vortex roughly 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometres) across in the atmosphere of Neptune. Though similar features were seen during the Voyager 2 flyby of Neptune in 1989 and by the HST in 1994, this vortex is the first one observed on Neptune in the 21st century.