Nasa Image of the Day
Launching the Galileo Mission

Launching the Galileo Mission

On Oct. 18, 1989, space shuttle Atlantis deployed NASA's Galileo spacecraft six hours, 30 minutes into the STS-34 mission. Galileo arrived at Jupiter in December, 1995 and spent eight years in orbit around the gas giant, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit an outer planet.

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Guide to Stars and PlanetsGuide to Stars and Planets

Astronomy.co.uk has teamed up with Amazon.co.uk to bring you the finest selection of astronomy related books at the best prices.

Browse through our bookstore and check out our fine selection of books from star charts and astrophotography to mathematical astronomy. We are sure you will find the book that best suits your needs.

Sky View Cafe
Sky View Cafe

Sky View Café is a Java applet that lets you use your web browser to see many types of astronomical information, in both graphical and numerical form. You can see which stars and planets will be out tonight in the sky above your home town, see how the next solar or lunar eclipse will look from London, or find out when the Moon rose over Sydney on your birthday ten years ago. Sky View Café includes star charts, a 3-D orrery, displays of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, an astronomical event calendar, an ephemeris generator, and many other features. Enter Sky View Café now!

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The Sky Tonight Astronomy News
Superflares From Young Red Dwarf Stars Imperil Planets
Thu, 18 Oct 2018 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

The term "HAZMAT" connotes danger. In this case, it's on a cosmic scale, where violent flares of seething gas from small, young stars may make entire planets uninhabitable. NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is observing such stars through a large program called HAZMAT — HAbitable Zones and M dwarf Activity across Time. This is an ultraviolet survey of red dwarfs — referred to as "M dwarfs" in astronomical circles — at three different ages: young, intermediate, and old.

Approximately three-quarters of the stars in our galaxy are red dwarfs. Most of the galaxy's "habitable-zone" planets orbit these small stars. But young red dwarfs are active stars, producing ultraviolet flares that blast out million-degree plasma with an intensity that could influence atmospheric chemistry and possibly strip off the atmospheres of these fledgling planets. The HAZMAT team found that flares from the youngest red dwarfs they surveyed — around 40 million years old — are 100 to 1,000 times more energetic than when the stars are older. This is the age when terrestrial planets are forming around their stars. Scientists also detected one of the most intense stellar flares ever observed in ultraviolet light. Dubbed the "Hazflare," this event was more energetic than the most powerful flare from our Sun ever recorded.



How to Weigh a Black Hole Using NASA's Webb Space Telescope
Wed, 17 Oct 2018 10:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Galaxies and their central, supermassive black holes are inextricably linked. Both grow in lockstep for reasons that aren’t yet understood. To gain new insights, Webb will turn its infrared gaze to the center of a nearby galaxy called NGC 4151, whose supermassive black hole is actively feeding and glowing brightly. By measuring the motions of stars clustered around the black hole and comparing them to computer models, astronomers can determine the black hole’s mass. This challenging measurement will test the capabilities of Webb’s innovative instrument called an integral field unit.



Watch BepiColombo launch - Read more >
Tue, 16 Oct 2018 09:00:00 +0200

Watch live as the ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission to Mercury is launched on an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.




Selfie-cam, go! - Read more >
Mon, 15 Oct 2018 10:40:00 +0200


Space Science Image of the Week: a monitoring camera on the BepiColombo Mercury Transfer Module takes a test image during pre-launch preparations



To the launch pad! - Read more >
Fri, 12 Oct 2018 16:00:00 +0200


Find out how our three new space explorers, Bepi, Mio and MTM, have been preparing for their epic adventure to Mercury



Final assembly - Read more >
Tue, 09 Oct 2018 14:35:00 +0200


BepiColombo experts describe the mission to Mercury as the three spacecraft modules are assembled in launch configuration



Hubble in Safe Mode as Gyro Issues are Diagnosed
Mon, 08 Oct 2018 16:00:00 EDTHubble Image

On Friday, October 5, 2018, at approximately 6:00 p.m. EDT, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope entered safe mode. NASA is working to resume science operations. Hubble’s instruments still are fully operational and are expected to produce excellent science for years to come.



Call for Media: BepiColombo launch to Mercury - Read more >
Mon, 08 Oct 2018 16:00:00 +0200


The BepiColombo mission to Mercury is scheduled to launch aboard an Ariane 5 from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana at 01:45 GMT (03:45 CEST) on 20 October 2018. Representatives of traditional and social media are invited to apply for accreditation to follow the launch live from ESA’s mission control centre in Darmstadt, Germany.




Construction of Europe's exoplanet hunter Plato begins - Read more >
Thu, 04 Oct 2018 10:00:00 +0200


The construction of ESA's Plato mission to find and study planets beyond our Solar System will be led by Germany’s OHB System AG as prime contractor, marking the start of the full industrial phase of the project.




Astronomers Find First Evidence of Possible Moon Outside Our Solar System
Wed, 03 Oct 2018 14:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Our solar system has eight major planets, and nearly 200 moons. Though astronomers have to date found nearly 4,000 planets orbiting other stars, no moons have yet been found. That hasn't been for any lack of looking, it’s just that moons are smaller than planets and therefore harder to detect.

The Hubble and Kepler space telescopes found evidence for what could be a giant moon accompanying a gas-giant planet that orbits the star Kepler-1625, located 8,000 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. The moon may be as big as Neptune and it orbits a planet several times more massive than Jupiter.

If our solar system is a typical example, moons may outnumber planets in our galaxy by at least an order of magnitude or more. This promises a whole new frontier for characterizing the nature of moons and their potential for hosting life as we know it.

The exomoon at Kepler-1625b is too far away to be directly photographed. Its presence is inferred when it passes in front of the star, momentarily dimming its light. Such an event is called a transit. However, the "footprint" of the moon's transit signal is weaker than for the host planet.

The researchers caution that the moon’s presence will need to be conclusively proven by follow-up Hubble observations.



Gaia spots stars flying between galaxies - Read more >
Tue, 02 Oct 2018 11:00:00 +0200


A team of astronomers using the latest set of data from ESA’s Gaia mission to look for high-velocity stars being kicked out of the Milky Way were surprised to find stars instead sprinting inwards – perhaps from another galaxy.




Gaia finds candidates for interstellar ‘Oumuamua’s home - Read more >
Tue, 25 Sep 2018 19:00:00 +0200


Using data from ESA’s Gaia stellar surveyor, astronomers have identified four stars that are possible places of origin of ‘Oumuamua, an interstellar object spotted during a brief visit to our Solar System in 2017.




Dust storms on Titan spotted by Cassini for the first time - Read more >
Mon, 24 Sep 2018 17:00:00 +0200


Data from the international Cassini spacecraft that explored Saturn and its moons between 2004 and 2017 has revealed what appear to be giant dust storms in equatorial regions of Titan.




Recent tectonics on Mars - Read more >
Thu, 20 Sep 2018 11:00:00 +0200


These prominent trenches were formed by faults that pulled the planet’s surface apart less than 10 million years ago.




Gaia hints at our Galaxy’s turbulent life - Read more >
Wed, 19 Sep 2018 19:00:00 +0200


ESA’s star mapping mission, Gaia, has shown our Milky Way galaxy is still enduring the effects of a near collision that set millions of stars moving like ripples on a pond.




ExoMars highlights radiation risk for Mars astronauts, and watches as dust storm subsides - Read more >
Wed, 19 Sep 2018 09:00:00 +0200


Astronauts on a mission to Mars would be exposed to at least 60% of the total radiation dose limit recommended for their career during the journey itself to and from the Red Planet, according to data from the ESA-Roscosmos ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter being presented at the European Planetary Science Congress, EPSC, in Berlin, Germany, this week.




Hubble Uncovers Never Before Seen Features Around a Neutron Star
Mon, 17 Sep 2018 11:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Imagine crushing more than 50,000 aircraft carriers into the size of a baseball. This describes neutron stars. They are among the strangest objects in the universe. Neutron stars are a case of extreme physics produced by the unforgiving force of gravity. The entire core of an exploded star has been squeezed into a solid ball of neutrons with the density of an atom’s nucleus. Neutron stars spin as fast as a blender on puree. Some spit out death-star beams of intense radiation — like interstellar lighthouses. These are called pulsars.

These beams are normally seen in X-rays, gamma-rays, and radio waves. But astronomers used Hubble's near-infrared (IR) vision to look at a nearby neutron star cataloged RX J0806.4-4123. They were surprised to see a gush of IR light coming from a region around the neutron star. That infrared light might come from a circumstellar disk 18 billion miles across. Another idea is that a wind of subatomic particles from the pulsar’s magnetic field is slamming into interstellar gas. Hubble's IR vision opens a new window into understanding how these "infernal machines" work.



Hubble Goes Wide to Seek Out Far-Flung Galaxies
Thu, 13 Sep 2018 11:00:00 EDTHubble Image

The universe is a big place. The Hubble Space Telescope's views burrow deep into space and time, but cover an area a fraction the angular size of the full Moon. The challenge is that these "core samples" of the sky may not fully represent the universe at large. This dilemma for cosmologists is called cosmic variance. By expanding the survey area, such uncertainties in the structure of the universe can be reduced.

A new Hubble observing campaign, called Beyond Ultra-deep Frontier Fields And Legacy Observations (BUFFALO), will boldly expand the space telescope's view into regions that are adjacent to huge galaxy clusters previously photographed by NASA's Spitzer and Hubble space telescopes under a program called Frontier Fields.

The six massive clusters were used as "natural telescopes," to look for amplified images of galaxies and supernovas that are so distant and faint that they could not be photographed by Hubble without the boost of light caused by a phenomenon called gravitational lensing. The clusters' large masses, mainly composed of dark matter, magnify and distort the light coming from distant background galaxies that otherwise could not be detected. The BUFFALO program is designed to identify galaxies in their earliest stages of formation, less than 800 million years after the big bang.



Success in Critical Communications Tests for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope
Wed, 05 Sep 2018 10:00:00 EDTHubble Image

When NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is en route to and in orbit nearly a million miles from Earth, continuous communications with its Mission Operations Center (MOC) in Baltimore will be essential. Recently, at the Space Telescope Science Institute—home of the MOC—Webb’s Flight Operations Team successfully completed two critical communications tests. The first demonstrated that from the moment Webb launches through the first six hours of flight, complex exchanges could be accomplished among the five different service providers around the world who will alternately convey command and telemetry communications. The second test showed that the MOC could successfully command the telescope.



BepiColombo science orbiters stacked together - Read more >
Fri, 31 Aug 2018 11:00:00 +0200


The two science orbiters of the joint ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission are connected in their launch configuration and the European science orbiter and transport module have been given the go-ahead to be loaded with propellants.




Retiring Hubble Visualization Expert Blended the Best of Science and Art
Thu, 30 Aug 2018 10:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Astronomy has always been a preeminently visual science, going back thousands of years to the early sky watchers. Hubble’s jaw-dropping views of far-flung planets, nebulas, and galaxies have redefined the universe for whole new generations. Nearly all of Hubble’s dazzling images have been prepared with the skills of Zoltan Levay, in the STScI Office of Public Outreach. Levay is retiring now to pursue his hobby of photography on a more earth-bound plane. He leaves behind a 25-year-long legacy of several thousand colorful space pictures that communicate the mystery and wonder of the universe. Levay blended traditional photographic skills with science data to yield aesthetically pleasing pictures that are both enticing and informative. He carefully balanced the objective and subjective elements of imagery to capture the essence of intrinsically wondrous celestial landscapes.



Hubble Paints Picture of the Evolving Universe
Thu, 16 Aug 2018 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Astronomers have just assembled one of the most comprehensive portraits yet of the universe’s evolutionary history, based on a broad spectrum of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope and other space and ground-based telescopes. In particular, Hubble’s ultraviolet vision opens a new window on the evolving universe, tracking the birth of stars over the last 11 billion years back to the cosmos’ busiest star-forming period, about 3 billion years after the big bang. This photo encompasses a sea of approximately 15,000 galaxies — 12,000 of which are star-forming — widely distributed in time and space.



Astronomers Uncover New Clues to the Star that Wouldn't Die
Thu, 02 Aug 2018 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

It takes more than a massive outburst to destroy the mammoth star Eta Carinae, one of the brightest known stars in the Milky Way galaxy. About 170 years ago, Eta Carinae erupted, unleashing almost as much energy as a standard supernova explosion.

Yet that powerful blast wasn’t enough to obliterate the star, and astronomers have been searching for clues to explain the outburst ever since. Although they cannot travel back to the mid-1800s to witness the actual eruption, they can watch a rebroadcast of part of the event — courtesy of some wayward light from the explosion. Rather than heading straight toward Earth, some of the light from the outburst rebounded or “echoed” off of interstellar dust, and is just now arriving at Earth. This effect is called a light echo.

The surprise is that new measurements of the 19th-century eruption, made by ground-based telescopes, reveal material expanding with record-breaking speeds of up to 20 times faster than astronomers expected. The observed velocities are more like the fastest material ejected by the blast wave in a supernova explosion, rather than the relatively slow and gentle winds expected from massive stars before they die.

Based on the new data, researchers suggest that the 1840s eruption may have been triggered by a prolonged stellar brawl among three rowdy sibling stars, which destroyed one star and left the other two in a binary system. This tussle may have culminated with a violent explosion when Eta Carinae devoured one of its two companions, rocketing more than 10 times the mass of our Sun into space. The ejected mass created gigantic bipolar lobes resembling the dumbbell shape seen in present-day images.



Saturn and Mars Team Up to Make Their Closest Approaches to Earth in 2018
Thu, 26 Jul 2018 10:00:00 EDTHubble Image

As Saturn and Mars ventured close to Earth, Hubble captured their portraits in June and July 2018, respectively. The telescope photographed the planets near opposition, when the Sun, Earth and an outer planet are lined up, with Earth sitting in between the Sun and the outer planet. Around the time of opposition, a planet is at its closest distance to Earth in its orbit. Hubble viewed Saturn on June 6, when the ringed world was approximately 1.36 billion miles from Earth, as it approached a June 27 opposition. Mars was captured on July 18, at just 36.9 million miles from Earth, near its July 27 opposition. Hubble saw the planets during summertime in Saturn’s northern hemisphere and springtime in Mars’ southern hemisphere. The increase in sunlight in Saturn’s northern hemisphere heated the atmosphere and triggered a large storm that is now disintegrating in Saturn’s northern polar region. On Mars, a spring dust storm erupted in the southern hemisphere and ballooned into a global event enshrouding the entire planet.



Print and play - Read more >
Fri, 13 Jul 2018 17:32:00 +0200


Test your memory and get to know BepiColombo and its journey to Mercury



Hubble and Gaia Team Up to Fuel Cosmic Conundrum
Thu, 12 Jul 2018 10:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Using the powerful Hubble and Gaia space telescopes, astronomers just took a big step toward finding the answer to the Hubble constant, one of the most important and long-sought numbers in all of cosmology. This number measures the rate at which the universe is expanding since the big bang, 13.8 billion years ago. The constant is named for astronomer Edwin Hubble, who nearly a century ago discovered that the universe was uniformly expanding in all directions. Now, researchers have calculated this number with unprecedented accuracy.

Intriguingly, the new results further intensify the discrepancy between measurements for the expansion rate of the nearby universe, and those of the distant, primeval universe — before stars and galaxies even existed. Because the universe is expanding uniformly, these measurements should be the same. The so-called “tension” implies that there could be new physics underlying the foundations of the universe.



NASA's Webb Space Telescope to Inspect Atmospheres of Gas Giant Exoplanets
Wed, 11 Jul 2018 10:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Thousands of exoplanets are known to orbit distant stars. Far fewer have had their atmospheres studied. The Webb telescope will bring new capabilities for determining atmospheric compositions, temperatures, and structures. Some of Webb’s earliest observations will focus on gas giants, whose puffy atmospheres should be easier to inspect. Lessons learned there will apply to later observations of small, rocky worlds.



Our Solar System’s First Known Interstellar Object Gets Unexpected Speed Boost
Wed, 27 Jun 2018 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Using observations from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories, an international team of scientists have confirmed `Oumuamua (oh-MOO-ah-MOO-ah), the first known interstellar object to travel through our solar system, got an unexpected boost in speed and shift in trajectory as it passed through the inner solar system last year.



Astronomers Release Most Complete Ultraviolet-Light Survey of Nearby Galaxies
Thu, 17 May 2018 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

Much of the light in the universe comes from stars, and yet, star formation is still a vexing question in astronomy.

To piece together a more complete picture of star birth, astronomers have used the Hubble Space Telescope to look at star formation among galaxies in our own cosmic back yard. The survey of 50 galaxies in the local universe, called the Legacy ExtraGalactic UV Survey (LEGUS), is the sharpest, most comprehensive ultraviolet-light look at nearby star-forming galaxies.

The LEGUS survey combines new Hubble observations with archival Hubble images for star-forming spiral and dwarf galaxies, offering a valuable resource for understanding the complexities of star formation and galaxy evolution. Astronomers are releasing the star catalogs for each of the LEGUS galaxies and cluster catalogs for 30 of the galaxies, as well as images of the galaxies themselves. The catalogs provide detailed information on young, massive stars and star clusters, and how their environment affects their development.

The local universe, stretching across the gulf of space between us and the great Virgo cluster of galaxies, is ideal for study because astronomers can amass a big enough sample of galaxies, and yet, the galaxies are close enough to Earth that Hubble can resolve individual stars. The survey will also help astronomers understand galaxies in the distant universe, where rapid star formation took place.



Stellar family portrait - Read more >
Mon, 14 May 2018 16:00:00 +0200


Explore Gaia’s second data release with this interactive visualisation of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, the family portrait of stars in our Milky Way



Hubble Detects Helium in the Atmosphere of an Exoplanet for the First Time
Wed, 02 May 2018 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

There may be no shortage of balloon-filled birthday parties or people with silly high-pitched voices on the planet WASP-107b. That's because NASA's Hubble Space Telescope was used to detect helium in the atmosphere for the first time ever on a world outside of our solar system. The discovery demonstrates the ability to use infrared spectra to study exoplanet atmospheres.

Though as far back as 2000 helium was predicted to be one of the most readily-detectable gases on giant exoplanets, until now helium had not been found — despite searches for it. Helium was first discovered on the Sun, and is the second-most common element in the universe after hydrogen. It's one of the main constituents of the planets Jupiter and Saturn.

An international team of astronomers led by Jessica Spake of the University of Exeter, UK, used Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 to discover helium. The atmosphere of WASP-107b must stretch tens of thousands of miles out into space. This is the first time that such an extended atmosphere has been discovered at infrared wavelengths.



Stellar Thief Is the Surviving Companion to a Supernova
Thu, 26 Apr 2018 13:00:00 EDTHubble Image

In the fading afterglow of a supernova explosion, astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have photographed the first image of a surviving companion to a supernova. This is the most compelling evidence that some supernovas originate in double-star systems. The companion to supernova 2001ig’s progenitor star was no innocent bystander to the explosion—it siphoned off almost all of the hydrogen from the doomed star’s stellar envelope. SN 2001ig is categorized as a Type IIb stripped-envelope supernova, which is a relatively rare type of supernova in which most, but not all, of the hydrogen is gone prior to the explosion. Perhaps as many as half of all stripped-envelope supernovas have companions—the other half lose their outer envelopes via stellar winds.



NASA's James Webb Space Telescope Could Potentially Detect the First Stars and Black Holes
Wed, 25 Apr 2018 10:00:00 EDTHubble Image

One of the key science goals of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is to learn about “first light,” the moment when the first stars and galaxies lit the universe. While the first galaxies will be within Webb’s reach, individual stars shine so faintly that Webb would not be able to detect them without help. That help could come in the form of natural magnification from gravitational lensing, according to a new theoretical paper.

A cluster of galaxies can provide the needed gravitational oomph to bring distant objects into focus via lensing. Typical gravitational lensing can boost a target’s brightness by a factor of 10 to 20. But in special circumstances, the light of a faraway star could be amplified by 10,000 times or more.

If Webb monitors several galaxy clusters a couple of times a year over its lifetime, chances are good that it will detect such a magnified star, or possibly the accretion disk of a black hole from the same era. This would give astronomers a key opportunity to learn about the actual properties of the early universe and compare them to computer models.



Meet ESA's science fleet - Read more >
Wed, 11 Apr 2018 13:56:00 +0200


Explore 3D models of ESA's science satellites across the Solar System in this interactive tool



Space science starts here - Read more >
Wed, 17 Aug 2016 11:20:00 +0200


Video showcase of ESA's fleet of space science missions and how they are helping us to understand our place in the Universe


This Month's Sky Map
This Month's Sky Map

Take a look at this month's Sky Map to help you explore the wonders of the night sky!

Ideal for all sky watchers including beginners to astronomy.

The Sky Map will help you identify planets, bright stars, constellations and nebulae!
Printable version available too!


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