Australian Sky & Telescope

Australian Sky & Telescope

July - August 2020

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.

Paragon Media Pty Ltd
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8 Issues

in this issue

1 min.
stargazing during the lockdown

WHAT A CRAZY FEW MONTHS we’ve all been through so far this year. The fast-moving COVID crisis has had so many consequences for the world, for our local communities and for each of us individually. I guess we can all count ourselves lucky that astronomy is the kind of pastime that can still be done even during an unexpected lockdown. As long as we have any kind of view of the sky — even if it’s only from out of our bedroom window or from the backyard — then we’re still able to enjoy our hobby and momentarily take our minds off the worries besetting the world. But the many disruptions caused by the COVID crisis have affected not only the general community but also specifically the astronomy, telescope equipment and…

13 min.
news notes

Is interstellar comet 2I/Borisov breaking up? THE INTERSTELLAR COMET designated 2I/Borisov, discovered on its way into the Solar System in 2019, began shedding chunks in late March — more than three months after its closest approach to the Sun. Two analyses of Hubble Space Telescope images taken between March 23 and 30 show fragments drifting from the comet. Analysis of the images shows a small piece of the comet breaking off and floating slowly away, David Jewitt (University of California, Los Angeles) and colleagues found. The fragment was bright and only 180 kilometres from the comet’s core at the time Hubble took the images. What’s more, after processing the same Hubble images to increase the contrast between the core and the coma around it, Bryce Bolin (Caltech) and colleagues spotted a second piece…

3 min.
the first rover on mars

Mars has always held a fascination for inquiring minds, and has been a major focus of attention for space exploration over most of the 70 years of the Space Age. Flyby missions and orbiters were sent to the planet in the early years, and the first robot landers — the two Vikings sent by the US — touched down in 1976. But to explore the planet properly and winkle out its secrets, we needed to be able to move around and not be limited to distant views from orbit or a fixed location. That capability finally came more than 20 years after the Vikings, with the arrival of NASA’s Mars Pathfinder mission, which landed on July 4, 1997. The name of the mission was appropriate for a couple of reasons. First, it…

4 min.
a midwinter night’s dream

Astronomers naturally revel in the dark, yet for hundreds of years the disciples of the night sky have watched it disappear into a haze of light pollution. As the tentacles of urbanisation and artificial light encroach on even the darkest observation footholds in the world, we can no longer solve the problem simply by moving observatories from one remote place to the next. The Southern Hemisphere has been slow to catch on to the dark sky trend that has been growing rapidly in countries north of the equator. The USA, Germany and Italy are leading the way with the publication of scientific research not only on the impact of artificial light, but also on the technologies that might help to reduce that impact. But the Australasian Dark Sky Alliance (ADSA) is…

6 min.
swan hunting

I work in the pathology industry, which, to the surprise of many, experienced a significant downturn in workload in April 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis. As a result I grabbed the opportunity to take some time off work, and ‘lockdown’ gave me the chance to concentrate on my hobby, astronomy. And in the process I discovered a comet. As per International Astronomical Union naming guidelines, C/2020 F8 (SWAN) is not named after me as I did not use my own equipment. I found C/2020 F8 by searching data publicly available on a website of the Solar and Heliospheric Observer (SOHO) mission. The SWAN (Solar Wind ANisotropies) instrument is an ultraviolet camera aboard the SOHO spacecraft. SOHO has been in operation since 1996. Its primary purpose is to study the Sun but,…

13 min.
stellar archaeology

THE FIRST STARS MUST HAVE been a magnificent sight. Far brighter, hotter and more massive than most stars that currently light the sky, they emerged after a period of relative darkness — about 100 million years after the Big Bang, aided by the gravitation of countless halos of dark matter. No large galaxies existed yet, nor did elements heavier than helium, save for a trace of lithium. But when the first stars ended their lives as immense supernova explosions a few million years later, they released heavier elements that helped form the next generation of stars. These heavy elements, such as carbon, calcium and iron, astronomers collectively call metals. Metals helped radiate away heat from collapsing clouds of hydrogen and helium gas, fostering the creation of less-massive and longer-lived stars. The…