Astronomy May 2018

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.
how our solar system formed

One of the most fundamental questions we innately have as humans is the simple notion of where we came from. In astronomy, that question can be asked on a variety of scales — where did we as creatures come from? Where did our solar system come from? Our galaxy? The universe at large? This month’s cover story by science journalist Jesse Emspak takes on the question of the origin of the solar system. For many years, astronomers thought they had a neat answer, with the Sun and its retinue of planets having coalesced from a dusty disk, the debris clearing out once our star began nuclear fusion. From there, it was a simple matter of Jupiter dominating the gas giants, by happenstance, and Earth taking on the role as the most…

2 min.
life in the universe may be common

J. William Schopf is an old friend of Astronomy magazine who has consulted with us in the past. He’s also one of the world’s sharpest researchers on the origin of life and the existence of ancient microfossils. Recently, Schopf and his team at UCLA, along with scientists at the University of Wisconsin, released studies of early microfossils that could shed light on how common life is in the universe. The oldest known microfossils on Earth come from Western Australia and date to 3.465 billion years ago. In a study published in December 2017 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Schopf and his team report that two species they studied appeared to undergo a primitive form of photosynthesis, another produced methane gas, and two more used methane to build…

4 min.
apathy now!

Are you ready for some exciting news about apathy? Back when Dan Goldin was administrator of NASA, his sister was one of my students. She thoughtfully told me he totally loved Discover magazine — especially my astronomy page. Pleased to hear it, I followed him closely after that, which is why I vividly remember August 6, 1996, when he called a press conference to make a jaw-dropping announcement: NASA’s analysis of the Antarctic martian meteorite ALH84001 revealed the possibility of life. Life on Mars! It finally happened! I quickly turned to my longsuffering wife and yelled: “Now we’ll find out!” I’d long suspected that the endlessly repeated adage that “everything will change if we find extraterrestrial life” was wrong, that it gave our apathetic citizenry too much credit, that people wouldn’t care if…

4 min.
astro letters

An authentic solar experience I really enjoyed David Eicher’s November 2017 editor’s letter, “Making light of galaxies,” and the idea of viewing the real thing through a telescope. I live where there are fairly dark skies and sometimes try to challenge myself by searching for deep-sky objects, such as nebulae and faint galaxies. It’s not always about how bright and beautiful the object appears, but rather knowing that you are looking at a galaxy that could be 58 million lightyears away, although it only appears as a faint smudge through the eyepiece. It can sometimes be frustrating trying to locate the fainter objects, but it’s so rewarding when a deep-sky object is found. With all the available technology and access to online viewing, it’s refreshing to read an article that embraces viewing…

3 min.
massive ice deposits found on mars

ORIGIN STORY. The first meteorites found to contain both liquid water and complex organic compounds may have originated from a dwarf planet in the asteroid belt, such as Ceres. Even though Mars’ atmosphere is just 1 percent as dense as Earth’s, the Red Planet’s surface still experiences plenty of weathering and erosion. In 2008, researchers captured a fullscale avalanche on Mars as material plunged down a 2,300-foot (700 meters) slope into a valley. These types of geological events often expose structures beneath the martian surface, revealing layers of rock, dry (carbon dioxide) ice, and even water ice. In a study published January 11 in Science, researchers using the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter investigated eight steep and eroded slopes, known as scarps, at various sites across Mars. At each spot, they found thick shelves…

1 min.
stellar disks can form rings without planets

NO PLANET REQUIRED. Astronomers spot disks of gas and dust around young stars by placing a “mask” (the dark region in the image’s center) over the star to block its light. This disk around the star HD 141569A shows complex structure; rings and other patterns are often used as proxies for forming exoplanets, which are thought to carve out lanes as they grow. But new simulations using NASA’s Discover supercomputing cluster show that planets are not needed for such rings to arise. Instead, disk material can develop structure as a result of exposure to ultraviolet light from the star. The discovery was announced January 11 at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, D.C.…