Astronomy September 2019

The world's best-selling astronomy magazine offers you the most exciting, visually stunning, and timely coverage of the heavens above. Each monthly issue includes expert science reporting, vivid color photography, complete sky coverage, spot-on observing tips, informative telescope reviews, and much more! All this in a user-friendly style that's perfect for astronomers at any level.

United States
Kalmbach Publishing Co. - Magazines
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12 Issues

in this issue

2 min.
no magic required

“Life can’t be magicked into existence,” the great evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has said. And it doesn’t need to be. When most astronomy enthusiasts think of life in the cosmos, they immediately dream of aliens and UFOs. But statistically speaking, one might expect many worlds filled with microbes, the simplest forms of life, for every one world that might evolve life into something more complex, like on Earth. Spectroscopy tells us that chemistry works the same way everywhere in the universe. We know from meteorites that complex organic molecules are abundant in the solar system. And the particles returned in 2006 by the Stardust spacecraft from Comet Wild 2 contained glycine — the simplest amino acid and one of the fundamental building blocks of life. Experiments going back to the 1950s, when…

2 min.
astro letters

Debunking COSTAR It was with great interest that I read Jeff Hester’s column in the May issue regarding the overhyped role of COSTAR in saving the Hubble Space Telescope from eternal scorn and ridicule. The NOVA episode mentioned in his column certainly did imply that COSTAR was almost single-handedly responsible for saving Hubble. While COSTAR did play an important role, and Jeff does give some credit to it, COSTAR was completely removed from Hubble in the final shuttle servicing mission in 2009. All optical corrections have since been done by other equipment, making COSTAR obsolete and putting its contributions to science since 2009 at about zero. Regardless, I think most people can agree that Hubble has truly become, through the efforts of many different individuals, one of the most valuable instruments ever…

1 min.
stunning spiral

Like most galaxies, NGC 2903 hides a dark secret: a supermassive black hole at its core. The inner regions of the spiral galaxy serve as the focal point for this image, taken with the Hubble Space Telescope as part of a survey to better understand how such supermassive black holes influence the gas, dust, and stars that lie in the center of the galaxy around them. NGC 2903, which sits about 30 million light-years from Earth in the constellation Leo the Lion, is intriguing because its central regions are forming stars at a more rapid rate than average, leading researchers to wonder about the cause. In addition to its glowing, elongated center, the galaxy also shows off bright star-forming regions and dark lanes of interstellar dust in this close-up view. ESA/HUBBLE…

1 min.
hot bytes

LUNAR GOALS On May 13, NASA announced the Artemis program will return humans to the Moon by 2024, requesting an initial $1.6 billion to jump-start the project. POWER SOURCE Scientists have finally discovered the source of the glowing STEVE phenomenon: heated charged particles in the upper atmosphere. The effect is akin to a glowing lightbulb. NEW SIGNALS LIGO and VIRGO spotted gravitational waves from two colliding neutron stars for the second time April 25. One day later, they recorded gravitational waves that researchers think may be from a neutron star colliding with a black hole.…

3 min.
hubble confirms universe’s fast expansion rate

Scientists know the universe is expanding. But there’s a conundrum: Studies of the early universe to derive the expansion rate, called the Hubble constant or H, don’t mesh with measurements of the universe today. Instead, observations suggest it is expanding about 9 percent faster than the theoretical value obtained from the early universe. There are two ways to determine how fast the universe is expanding. One is to use measurements of conditions in the very early universe to calculate the expansion rate, based on cosmological models. The other is to measure directly how quickly objects are receding from our position. Based on previous measurements, astronomers believed there was a 1 in 3,000 chance that the calculated and measured expansion rates don’t actually disagree. (That is, there was a 1 in 3,000…

1 min.
a distant galaxy speeds closer

Unlike most galaxies, M90 appears headed toward, not away from, our location. Its orbit around the center of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies, of which it is a member, is carrying the galaxy away from the cluster in our direction, making it appear to approach at a fast pace. Eventually, M90 may even escape the cluster; if not, it will move back toward the center and appear to recede from Earth instead. This colorful image of M90, taken with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 on the Hubble Space Telescope, includes visible, infrared, and ultraviolet light. The camera, which operated from 1994 until 2009, produced images with a distinct staircase shape. ESA/HUBBLE & NASA, W. SARGENT ET AL.…