Australian Sky & Telescope

Australian Sky & Telescope

September - October 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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6 Issues

in this issue

1 min.
red planet reminiscences

I CAN STILL REMEMBER when I first identified Mars in the night sky. It was the first planet I had managed to spot. I was a teenager, armed only with a very rudimentary knowledge of stargazing and an old National Geographic star chart that really wasn’t intended as a viewing aid. It was such a thrill to make the leap from printed map to moving planet, as I watched Mars slowly traverse Leo that year. This was only a few years after the Viking space probes had landed on Mars, back when the planet was still pretty much a mystery. Fast forward to today, and the Red Planet has been visited by a myriad of missions. Many of the current fleet of spacecraft have been studying it for years, and they’re…

9 min.
news notes

First image of a young sun and two giant planets THE EUROPEAN Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) has captured an image of a young, Sun-like star and its two companions. Direct images of exoplanets are nothing new, but this is the first time researchers have directly seen multiple planets orbiting a star like our own. The star is only 17 million years old, a “very young version of our own Sun,” says Alexander Bohn (Leiden University, The Netherlands), who led the team that reported the results. But the system, dubbed TYC 8998-760-1, is nothing like our Solar System. One of the star’s companions straddles the line that defines planets, with a mass 14 times Jupiter’s; the other has a mass of six Jupiters. Both orbit far from the star, about 160 and…

3 min.
the sun and its element

For nearly 2,000 years, since the time of the ancient Greek thinkers, conventional wisdom in the west maintained that the Earth and the universe that enclosed it are very different. The Earth stood still at the centre of all things, while the heavens revolved around it. But the Earth was subject to change and decay, while, at least beyond the orbit of the Moon, all was eternal and unchanging. Great minds in the 17th and 18th century steadily dismantled that understanding. Copernicus and Galileo moved the Earth from the centre, replacing it with the Sun. Newton proved that events on Earth and in the wider universe followed the same laws of motion and that all was subject to the force of gravity. At that level, the Earth and the Universe were…

13 min.
the hunt for the first exomoons

If our Solar System is any guide, moons should exist in abundance throughout the galaxy — perhaps reaching numbers as high as tens of billions. David Kipping was almost shaking with excitement. He was staring at a plot on his computer screen with a peculiar dip that kept reappearing no matter how he processed the data. It looked like the first glimpse of a moon beyond the Solar System. He left his desk and went for a walk. “I had to sit on a bench and take deep breaths to try and centre myself a bit because I was just, like, crazily excited about it — thinking ‘This is gonna be amazing, this is gonna change my life,’” he says. But Kipping, then a postdoc at Harvard University, also knew that his excitement…

16 min.
io the volcani rosetta stone

MOST PLANETS IN THE SOLAR SYSTEM have moons, but giant Jupiter has perhaps the most extraordinary satellite of all — the volcanic wonderland Io, a world made for superlatives. Its hundreds of active volcanoes erupt huge volumes of hot lava. Lava flows cover areas the size of small countries on Earth. And although it’s almost exactly the same size as Earth’s Moon and just as much a target for impactors, Io’s surface looks nothing like the ancient, heavily cratered lunar landscape — in fact, Io’s surface has no impact craters at all: The incredible level of volcanic activity constantly renews the surface and quickly buries all evidence of impacts. The most astonishing thing about Io, however, is that it is volcanic at all. When the worlds of the Solar System first…

2 min.
new product showcase

LARGE-FORMAT CMOS Finger Lakes Instrumentation (a division of IDEX Health & Science) adds a new large-format CMOS to its line of professional-grade astronomical cameras. The Kepler KL6060 Cooled sCMOS camera (starting at US$45,000) is designed around a huge, 37.7-megapixel monochrome sCMOS detector with 10-micron-square pixels in a 6,144 x 6,144 array measuring 86.8 mm from corner to corner. Thermoelectric cooling allows stable temperatures of down to 45°C below ambient. Combined with low 4.6e- read noise, this results in smooth, noise-free images. The unit is capable of recording 11 full-resolution, 12-bit frames per second through its USB 3.0 interface, or 19 frames per second when using an optional QSFP fiber interface. Faster rates are possible when using a small region-of-interest. The camera is available with a standard front-illuminated detector with a peak…