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Astronomy March 2020

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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.
remembering hubble

Launched in 1990, the Hubble Space Telescope became an instant fiasco in orbit. During in-orbit testing, astronomers immediately found that the 2.4-meter mirror was flawed. It had been figured incorrectly at Perkin-Elmer due to a lens in a testing instrument that was out of place by 1.3 millimeters. The world’s greatest space telescope became an instant boon-doggle and the butt of jokes on the late-night talk shows. In December 1993, the first servicing mission, using the space shuttle Endeavour, fixed the problem with a set of corrective optics. COSTAR, the corrective optics package, was supplemented with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2, which also had corrective optics and allowed for a series of magnificent images to be made. All was right again with the world’s greatest in-orbit telescope. On this 30th…

2 min.
astro letters

Future astronomer I am 12 years old and want to be an astronomer one day. I am writing because I really like the Paths of the Planets chart in the November 2019 issue of Astronomy magazine. It shows a lot of information about the planets and where to find them in the night sky when they are most visible. I love looking at the night sky, and this magazine gives me plenty of information I can use to find space objects, and it helps me plan for what to expect in the days ahead. That is one of my favorite things about your magazine. —Zach Owens, Birmingham, AL What’s in a name … I was really motivated to send you this letter after reading Robin Canup’s article in the November 2019 issue, “The Moon’s…

1 min.
a ghostly space face

What at first appears to be a face with glowing eyes is actually a unique moment in time, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. Galaxies grow and evolve through collisions. Although most smash-ups aren’t head-on, Arp–Madore 2026–424 apparently didn’t get the memo. In June 2019, Hubble took this visible-light snapshot of the cosmic crash in progress. The central regions, or bulges, of the galaxies glow brightly like a pair of supernatural eyes. Gas, dust, and stars in the galaxies’ arms have been yanked around by gravitational effects, forming a huge, bluish ring structure that serves as the head and nose. Cosmically speaking, ring structures like this don’t last long — only about 100 million years. As the merger progresses, the face will distort into unrecognizability. And in about 1 billion to 2 billion years,…

3 min.
is planet nine a tiny black hole?

The strange orbits of distant space rocks suggest there’s a 5- to 15-Earth-mass world dubbed Planet Nine lurking in the outskirts of the solar system. But now, a team of scientists is proposing something far stranger may be influencing the orbits of these distant bodies: a primordial black hole. Primordial black holes are believed to have popped into existence within the first few fractions of a second after the Big Bang. Their existence has yet to be confirmed. But, according to research posted September 24 to the preprint site arXiv, if primordial black holes exist, there’s no reason the solar system couldn’t have captured one whose gravity would mimic the effects of the proposed Planet Nine. And because black holes are incredibly adept at crushing down matter, the black hole equivalent…

1 min.
the ringed world wanders

A ZODIACAL JOURNEY. Saturn takes 29.5 years to circle the Sun, so it typically spends a lot of time in each constellation it traverses. It crosses from Sagittarius to Capricornus in March 2020, ending a 28-month foray through the Archer’s stars. But its longest stretch comes within the confines of Virgo the Maiden. The chart shows the percentage of time the ringed planet will reside in each constellation from March 2020 until it returns to the same position three orbits from now, in July 2108. FAST FACT Saturn’s orbit tilts 2.5° to the ecliptic, enough that it slices through two non-zodiacal constellations: Cetus and Orion.…

1 min.
quick takes

NESTED BLACK HOLES New research suggests the disks of supermassive black holes could have smaller black holes merging within them. If true, this could help explain the formation of the roughly 50-solar-mass black holes found by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory. BON VOYAGE Voyager 2 passed into interstellar space in November 2018. Scientists have described the milestone in five recent papers, including one that found surprising signs of charged particles “leaking” from the heliosphere, the bubble of space carved out by the Sun’s influence. CASE-ING PLANETS The European Space Agency’s ARIEL mission, planned for launch in 2028, will closely study the atmospheres of about 1,000 exoplanets. Aboard the spacecraft, NASA’s CASE instrument will help determine whether these alien skies are cloudy, hazy, or clear. STARLINK GROWS On November 11, SpaceX launched its second batch of 60 Starlink…