Astronomy March 2016

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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Kalmbach Publishing Co. - Magazines
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2 minutos
musings on element number 8

August 1774 was a big month for science. At Bowood House, Wiltshire, England, east of Bath and west of London, 41-year-old chemist Joseph Priestley discovered a “new air” in experiments that he later replicated with his fellow researcher Antoine Lavoisier in Paris. This “dephlogisticated air,” referring to his now long-obsolete idea about combustion, turned out to be oxygen. Priestley, Lavoisier, and Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele had a hand in its discovery and the realization of what it is. Lavoisier named the element after the Greek oxys, for “acid,” and gens, for “creator.” In his story on page 28, Bob Berman describes the incredible importance of the periodic table’s eighth element to the universe. The discovery of oxygen led to a chemical revolution, and we have long known how important the…

2 minutos
galaxy fever

HOT BYTES TRENDING TO THE TOP PEBBLE GAPS Disk gaps around young stars can show where planets swept dust away, but a new study says they might show where hard-to-spot pebbles reside. RAMBLE ON In November, NASA’S Curiosity Mars rover rolled toward the Bagnold Dunes, which migrate as much as 3 feet (1 meter) per Earth year. IT’S MAGNETIC NASA’s Voyager 1 appears to be in a distorted magnetic region just outside the solar system, which scientists expect it to leave by 2025. Nothing gets me going come springtime more than peering into an eyepiece at a distant galaxy. The knowledge that the photons striking my eye have traveled through space for millions of years is humbling. As is the realization of the sheer number of galaxies in the universe — now thought to be at least 100…

4 minutos
strange indeed

Beware the Ides of March. Strangeness can envelop not just celestial objects, but astronomers, astronauts, and even amateurs. Odd events seem to befall those who choose to explore the universe, and I’ve collected many stories over the years. Consider: Not one but three different observatory directors have complained to me about having to clear away snakes that had built homes in the dome. The weirdest thing that happened on the Moon was caused by Neil Armstrong disobeying his training. He failed to cut the lunar lander engine when the blue contact light came on 5 feet above the surface. He was just too good a pilot, and he flew so gently to the ground that the honeycombed aluminum legs, designed to crush and absorb some of the impact, remained intact. Result:…

2 minutos
from our inbox

A nice surprise I just read Jeff Hester’s short article on “Postmodernist airplanes” on p. 14 in the November issue. While being a neuroscientist and a professor, I am also an amateur astronomer. And so, just a short note: Your article made my Sunday. I never expected to find such a well organized, concise, and eloquent set of statements about science while looking for a good tip/tilt device for my telescope. Congratulations. — Rodolfo Llinas, New York Science or science fiction? In the September issue on p. 28, your article “Multiverses: Science or science fiction?” was great! It was well written — I couldn’t put it down. I am with the skeptics who think many of the multiverse ideas are not even wrong. I base my skepticism not just on your article but…

2 minutos
phobos is cracking up

EARLY BIRDS. Astronomers using Hubble’s largest survey to date showed that galaxies in the early universe were more efficient at converting gas to stars than their current counterparts, possibly due to the more compact environments back then. Mars may have a moon only for another 30 million to 50 million years — the blink of an eye, in astronomical terms. For many years, astronomers thought Phobos’ grooves, first seen in images sent by the Viking spacecraft, were signs of asteroid impacts. But recent modeling, presented November 10 at the American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences meeting, shows that instead they are “stretch marks” from Mars’ persistent gravitational tug, and signs of the world’s eventual destruction. Mars and Phobos orbit closer than any other planet and moon in the solar system, at…

1 minutos

SPACE DEBRIS PUTS ON FIERY SHOW Human-made space debris came hurtling back to Earth on Friday, November 13, burning up harmlessly over the Indian Ocean. The object, designated WT1190F, was found by the Catalina Sky Survey in October and eventually turned out to be a temporary satellite that telescopes had also spotted in 2009 and 2013 before losing it. The debris was caught in a highly elliptical orbit that took it closer than Earth’s geosynchronous satellites and then out past the Moon every few weeks. WT1190F burned up south of Sri Lanka almost exactly as scientists predicted, providing a valuable test of asteroid response readiness. HEARTBEATS REVEAL A GALAXY’S AGE Looking through an eyepiece at a galaxy like Messier 87 (M87), it’s tough to imagine its brightness changing on human timescales. But many…