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Astronomy February 2019

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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why the universe loves small stars

We think of our Sun as an ordinary star, staring across space at us through a 93 million-mile chasm each and every day. But our Sun actually is about twice the size of the most common stars, M dwarfs. By contrast, M dwarfs are tiny, cool stars populating the cosmos to a tune of more than 70 percent of the total.Why does the universe make so many small stars? Science writer Bruce Dorminey investigates that question this month in his feature story. Think about the numbers: Of the perhaps 400 billion stars in the Milky Way, approximately 300 billion are M dwarfs. So the life cycles of these cool, small suns play a critical role in the story of how the universe works. The Milky Way is not unique; in…

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astro letters

A unique reminderStephen James O’Meara had an excellent piece in the September issue of Astronomy. It was an appropriate reminder that observing should always be an individualistic endeavor. We read the articles, descriptions and captions, but do any of us really see anything? Does it really look like a Coathanger, an Eagle, or a Running Man? If so, fine, but see things as you would, not necessarily as someone else tells you that you should. That’s the beauty of this pursuit, both amateur and professional. Beauty and amazement are individual perceptions, and you (and the Buddhists) were so very right in reminding us to keep them that way. —Steve Solon, Rio Rancho, NMAstronomical historyI have been a subscriber for many years, and it’s given me the opportunity to look into…

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pirate of the skies

This vivid but ominous image — taken with the FOcal Reducer and low dispersion Spectrograph (FORS2) instrument on the European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope — shows NGC 2467, otherwise known as the Skull and Crossbones Nebula. Resembling a freakish face in the sky, the young nebula is packed to the brim with clouds of dust and gas, making it a hotbed for star formation.Located about 17,000 light-years away in Puppis, the colorful formation isn’t a single star-forming nebula, but rather a group of them moving at different velocities along our line of sight. This vibrant image was taken as part of ESO’s Cosmic Gems program, which photographs celestial wonders when conditions aren’t ideal for science investigations.HOT BYTESTRENDING TO THE TOPHYPERIONAstronomers discovered the largest supercluster of galaxies to date;…

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rover completes mission on asteroid ryugu

In a historic feat, Hayabusa2’s Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT) has completed its mission to explore, probe, and photograph the surface of asteroid Ryugu. In October, the rover spent just over two full asteroid days, or 17 Earth hours, conducting research with an array of high-powered instruments. Scientists will use the new findings to learn more about Ryugu’s past and present, as well as decode the elements that made up our ancient solar system.Hayabusa2 descended from 12 miles (20 kilometers) above Ryugu, where it had hung out since arriving in June, to drop MASCOT off about 200 feet (60 meters) above the asteroid. The tiny, box-shaped rover, which measures just under a foot (30 centimeters) at its widest and weighs just 22 pounds (10 kilograms), spent its first seven-and-a-half-hour day…

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how far away is the moon?

(ASTRONOMY: ROEN KELLY)TIGHT FIT. We often think of the Moon as just a hop, skip, and a jump from Earth. This is partly because humans have explored the lunar surface in person, and partly because most images of the Earth-Moon system shrink the vast distance between them to better show the worlds themselves. But in reality, the Moon routinely swings out to a surface-to-surface distance of about 247,000 miles (398,000 kilometers) during apogee. As it turns out, this leaves just enough space to squeeze in all of the solar system’s other planets side by side between Earth and the Moon.FAST FACTIf you use the average Earth-Moon distance of about 234,000 miles (376,000 km) surface to surface, the planets still fit, but they must be aligned along their polar axes since…

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in memoriam: leon lederman

(FERMI NATIONAL ACCELERATOR LABORATORY)GODFATHER. Physicist Leon Lederman — discoverer of the muon neutrino and the bottom quark, as well as the man responsible for nicknaming the Higgs boson the “God particle” — died October 3, 2018, at age 96. The longtime director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, Lederman won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1988. He was not only a giant in his field, but also a valued ambassador for science who made physics accessible to the general public. ■…