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Australian Sky & TelescopeAustralian Sky & Telescope

Australian Sky & Telescope August/September 2018

Australian Sky & Telescope is a world-class magazine about the science and hobby of astronomy.  Combining the formidable worldwide resources of its venerable parent magazine with the talents of the best science writers and photographers in Australia, Australian Sky & Telescope is a magazine produced specifically for the Southern Hemisphere’s astronomers.

Country:
Australia
Language:
English
Publisher:
Paragon Media Pty Ltd
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8 Issues

IN THIS ISSUE

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remembering your first scope

DO YOU REMEMBER when you first looked through a telescope? Was it when you were young or much later as an adult? And do you remember the feeling you had when seeing real objects floating in space for the first time? Not pictures on a page or a screen, and not science fiction, but the real thing. It’s a fabulous feeling to suddenly realise that there really is a whole universe out there, just waiting for you to explore it by proxy through some clever optical wizardry. Most astronomy enthusiasts, although not all, go on to buy (or in the old days, build) a telescope of their own. What was your first scope? Was it the archetypal department store 60-mm refractor that boasted 500 million times magnification? Perhaps it was a…

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insight lander heads to mars

NASA’S INSIGHT MARS LANDER launched aboard an Atlas V rocket on May 5, rising through the predawn fog from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The spacecraft’s name stands for Interior Exploration Using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy, and Heat Transport. Prime contractor Lockheed Martin Space based the spacecraft design on the Phoenix lander, which touched down near the Martian north pole in 2008. Insight should arrive at Mars on November 26 after an interplanetary cruise of nearly 500 million km. The spacecraft will make a direct descent to the planet’s surface. About 6 minutes after entering the Martian atmosphere, Insight will use — as Phoenix did — a combination of aerodynamic drag, parachutes and radar-triggered thrusters. However, compared to Phoenix, Insight is more massive (358 kg), arrives at higher velocity (22,680…

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in brief

Helicopter to fly with Mars 2020 rover NASA has announced that a small, autonomous helicopter, named Mars Helicopter Scout, will make the journey to the Red Planet with the Mars 2020 rover. It may become the first mission to fly on another planet. Tucked away under the rover during descent, the helicopter will be deposited on the Martian surface shortly after landing. Weighing in at 1.8 kg, the baseball-size helicopter will whip its rotor blades at 3,000 rpm (10 times the rate of a helicopter on Earth) to create lift in the tenuous Martian atmosphere. As a technology demonstrator, the helicopter won’t carry science instruments, but it will have two cameras that could prove valuable in mapping terrain. Funded for US$23 million early this year, the helicopter is expected to last…

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tess mission launches successfully

A NEW PLANET-HUNTER is on its way to search for new worlds: The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched successfully on April 18 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The mission will survey nearly the whole sky for exoplanets. TESS launched just in time, as NASA’s Kepler will run out fuel within several months. Like Kepler, TESS will be looking for the brief dips in starlight produced when exoplanets transit their stars. But unlike Kepler, which aimed toward a small field containing more than 150,000 mostly faraway stars, TESS will examine 200,000 stars near Earth. The planets TESS finds around these stars will be more easily studied through follow-up observations on the ground and in space. The spacecraft will be the first to operate in a lunar-resonant orbit dubbed P/2, circuiting Earth…

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gaia maps 1.7 billion stars, widens cosmic census

EUROPEAN ASTRONOMERS have published the second release of data (DR2) from the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite. The resulting catalogue is the most extensive and precise yet, containing data on 1.7 billion stars. Based on 22 months of data collection, Gaia’s DR2 consists of precise parallaxes, and thus geometric distances, to more than 1.3 billion stars, as well as positions and brightnesses of almost 1.7 billion stars. That’s a huge leap compared to the mission’s first data release in 2016, which contained 2 million stellar distances. Moreover, the newly published distances rely solely on Gaia’s own measurements — in DR1 Gaia’s measurements had to be augmented by data from the 1990s-era Hipparcos satellite observations. The satellite spins continuously around its axis as it orbits the Sun, enabling its two telescopes to scan…

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14 galaxies might have become the largest cluster in the universe

AT LEAST 14 GALAXIES congregating just 1.4 billion years after the Big Bang might have become one of the most massive structures in the universe — if we could observe it to the present day. Each galaxy in this protocluster is alight with stars forming 50 to 1,000 times more quickly than the Milky Way; the complex as a whole has the mass of 10 trillion Suns. The fact that these galaxies came together in such a massive structure so early on challenges our ideas of how clusters form. Clusters, the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe, contain hundreds or thousands of galaxies tethered together by their massive halos of dark matter. As galaxies are coming together, such a group is called a protocluster, and its future isn’t guaranteed — depending…

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