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.
Dazzling planet Venus continues to be a useful celestial signpost to other planets at dusk. Having already showcased Neptune and Mercury this year, the brightest planet has a close conjunction with Uranus on the UK evening of Sunday, 8 March. The pair lie just 2.2 degrees apart against the constellation backdrop of Aries, simultaneously visible in typical 10×50 binoculars.
NASA’s Juno spacecraft made a high-speed pass less than 3,000 miles over Jupiter’s turbulent clouds Thursday, taking dozens of pictures, measuring radiation and plasma waves, and peering deep inside the planet’s atmosphere, but officials still have not cleared the orbiter’s main engine for a planned maneuver to position the probe for improved science observations.
Three teams of astronomers have made use of SPHERE, an advanced exoplanet-hunting instrument on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, in order to shed light on the enigmatic evolution of fledgling planetary systems. The explosion in the number of known exoplanets in recent years has made the study of them one of the most dynamic fields in modern astronomy.
To better understand how planets in binary star systems form and evolve, astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) took a new, detailed look at the planet-forming disc around HD 142527, a binary star about 450 light-years from Earth in a cluster of young stars known as the Scorpius-Centaurus Association.
An international research team has used sophisticated computer simulations to calculate a two-dimensional map of the dust chemistry in the solar nebula, the thin dusty disc that surrounded the young Sun and out of which the planets formed. The study has given new insights into the chemical composition of the dust grains that formed in the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.
Are you looking for something to bring the wow factor back to your public viewing sessions, or a means to observe in comfort out of the cold? The sub-£100 Astro-Video Systems DSO-1 camera promises near realtime colour imaging of deep-sky objects and high-resolution planetary imaging with modest telescopes. Does it deliver? Ade Ashford finds out.