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Science
Astronomy

Astronomy

February 2021

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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Country:
United States
Language:
English
Publisher:
Kalmbach Publishing Co. - Magazines
Frequency:
Monthly
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12 Issues

in this issue

2 min.
a renewal for stargazing

As I write this in late 2020, the world has been upended by a pandemic for over eight months now. More significant than any health crisis in a century, the coronavirus outbreak has changed all our lives, in some ways perhaps permanently. Despite all the negative aspects of the pandemic — social distancing away from friends and family, economic fallout, and, most importantly, the terrible toll of death and sickness — there has been one apparent benefit from these circumstances. We’ve seen quite a surge of astronomy hobbyists and their neighbors, friends, and acquaintances discovering or rediscovering the sky. This year has been a good one for observational astronomy, no doubt. We had a beautiful naked-eye comet, C/2020 F3 NEOWISE. On the days before and following perihelion, July 3, it shone…

2 min.
astro letters

Teaching the teacher I taught high school biology for 42 years. I always mentioned the sense of smell could evoke a strong memory or emotional response, but I never knew why this was true. Then comes along Associate Editor Jake Parks, who beautifully taught the teacher with his explanation of how smell works in the sidebar for “What does Titan smell like?” in the September issue. To my more than 5,000 former students: I apologize for not explaining “the why” of the issue as well as Jake Parks can. — Jim McLeod, Charlotte, NC Seeing colors Thank you, Stephen O’Meara, for introducing me to Haidinger’s Brush in the October issue. I had never heard of it but will certainly watch for it. Decades ago, I had a shirt, and I believe it had wide…

2 min.
treasures of the cosmos

If humans could see beyond just visible light, the universe might look like these images, which combine observations from NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory with data from telescopes that pick up different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. This multiwavelength approach to observing helps researchers gain a fuller understanding of how these cosmic wonders behave in the depths of space. M82 (top left) is a galaxy facing Earth edge-on, giving us a unique look at outflows of gas driven by star formation and supernovae. Abell 2744 (top center) is a galaxy cluster millions of light-years across, while SN 1987A (top right) is the remnant of a powerful supernova that exploded 160,000 years ago. On the other hand, Eta Carinae (bottom left) is a binary star system still waiting to go supernova. The…

3 min.
osiris-rex overflows with samples

OSIRIS-REx is getting ready to come home — but like a lot of travelers, it has collected more souvenirs than will fit in its luggage. This highly relatable problem is a good one to have, though. It means the spacecraft’s Touch-And-Go (TAG) attempt to collect rocks and dust from the surface of asteroid Bennu October 20 was a smashing success. OSIRIS-REx — short for Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, and Security-Regolith Explorer — is now the third mission to nick rocks from an asteroid and NASA’s first, following Japan’s two Hayabusa missions. Bennu is a dark rubble pile of an asteroid more than 200 million miles (322 million kilometers) from Earth. Launched in 2016, OSIRIS-REx arrived in late 2018 and began an intensive survey of the 1,640-foot-wide (500 meters) world. Right away, Bennu…

1 min.
twisted solar system

The planets in our solar system orbit the Sun on nearly the same plane. But not every system is as harmonious. GW Orionis contains three young stars sowing chaos. Astronomers have known for more than a decade that this system (right) is surrounded by a disk of gas and dust, and new observations show that the stars’ gravitational meddling has formed three distinct rings within the disk. The effects have driven the innermost ring onto a entirely different plane as the others, shown in this artist’s concept (left). The disks aren’t the only crooked objects — the orbits of the stars themselves are also misaligned in this skewed system. ESO/L. CALÇADA, EXETER/KRAUS ET AL.…

1 min.
quick takes

READING TEA LEAVES Cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station tracked down a pesky minor air leak by tearing open a tea bag inside the affected module and watching the leaves drift toward the puncture. PHOSPHINE ON VENUS? Astronomers say they have detected phosphine in the clouds of Venus. The molecule, which is associated with biotic processes on Earth, may be produced by some unknown chemical process or even microbial life. (See “Top 10 space stories of 2020” on page 16 for more information.) ALTERED REALITY Paradox-free time travel is mathematically possible, University of Queensland researchers find. According to their calculations, if you traveled back in time and interacted with your past self, events would adjust themselves around you to ensure a consistent timeline. DEARTH METAL Astronomers have found that stars in the globular cluster RBC EXT8 in…