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Astronomy January 2020

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.

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United States
Kalmbach Publishing Co. - Magazines
12 Issues

in this issue

2 min.
a look at infant suns

You might not appreciate it, but with every glance into a dark sky, you’re seeing the grandest recycling program there is. Deep within molecular clouds in the galaxy, gravity is working its magic to collapse hydrogen and helium down into pockets, where new stars are born. This material, floating out in the so-called interstellar medium, originated from the deaths of older stars that are no more. Through the slow outgassing of planetary nebulae for stars like the Sun, or the explosive events known as supernovae for massive stars, atoms from former stars are blown out into space to eventually reaccrete into new stars. One of the regions of such star formation closest to us exists in the Perseus Molecular Cloud, an area of dense interstellar medium lying about 1,000 light-years away.…

2 min.
astro letters

What’s in a name? I appreciated Bob Berman’s October column and agree with it. However, regarding Uranus, I have a justification for using an incorrect pronunciation: As a docent at the Michigan Science Center, whenever I’m discussing the solar system exhibit with a group that includes teenage boys, I always choose to incorrectly pronounce Uranus as “u-RAY-nus” to avoid sounding like a bodily excretory function, which would surely elicit distracting snickers and/or comments from the boys. Since Bob and I have both been teenage boys at some point in our lives, I’m sure he can see the point in this. — Dick Simmons, Clarkston, MI Picture perfect In Bob Berman’s October column, he rightfully criticizes the media’s fixation on headline-grabbing but exaggerated or false stories. To a lesser extent, the entire profession of…

1 min.
a new look at a close neighbor

You can learn a lot about your neighborhood by looking at your neighbors. That’s exactly what astronomers are doing with the European Southern Observatory’s Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy (VISTA). VISTA is imaging 184 square degrees of sky encompassing the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds — the Milky Way’s largest satellite galaxies — and their surroundings. These small galaxies provide the perfect places to study how stars are born, live, and die — key processes that shape a galaxy over time. Mapping their stars also allows researchers to determine the galaxies’ 3D structure. Here, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC) appears in near-infrared light. These wavelengths, which are slightly longer than visible light, cut through dust that obscures the LMC’s stars from optical instruments. Using images such as this,…

1 min.
hot bytes

BLOWING BUBBLES Astronomers using the MeerKAT radio telescope discovered towering, hourglass-shaped bubbles in the Milky Way’s center. The structure is likely associated with our supermassive black hole. BIG INFLUENCE A study led by the University of Central Florida explains how interactions with Jupiter allow some objects from the outer solar system to change orbits, bringing them close enough to the Sun to become comets. SHREDDED SATELLITE The strange brightening and fading observed in Tabby’s star could be explained if the alien sun tore an exomoon out of orbit around its planet and ripped it to pieces, forming a ring of dust around the star.…

3 min.
meet our second-ever interstellar visitor

In October 2017, astronomers announced the discovery of our solar system’s first identified interstellar visitor: 1I/2017 U1, also called ‘Oumuamua. Now, they’ve found a second. Discovered August 30, 2019, by amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov, 2I/Borisov already appears different from ‘Oumuamua. And it’s offering astronomers a better, longer look at an interstellar object than its predecessor. IT CAME FROM INTERSTELLAR SPACE Borisov spotted the comet from the MARGO observatory in Nauchnij, Crimea, using a 0.65-meter telescope, as it zipped toward the Sun and inner solar system. By September 12, it was roughly 260 million miles (420 million kilometers) from the Sun and astronomers had clocked it moving at 93,000 mph (150,000 km/h). From there, it will grow brighter as it approaches perihelion — the point in its orbit closest to the Sun —…

1 min.
hubble’s latest snap of saturn

Saturn recently sat for its annual yearbook photo. As part of the Outer Planets Atmospheres Legacy project, the Hubble Space Telescope takes a series of snapshots of our solar system’s gas and ice giant planets each year to monitor changes in their atmospheres. Hubble captured this image June 20, 2019, a few weeks before the ringed planet reached opposition — its closest approach to Earth. The giant storm observed raging near Saturn’s north pole in 2018 has since disappeared. But the bizarre, hexagon-shaped structure at the planet’s north pole is still going strong. NASA/ESA/HUBBLE/A. SIMON (GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER)/M.H. WONG (UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY)…