Scientific American 20 Feb 2020, 14:22 UTC Not that long ago, it seemed the glory days of NASA’s New Horizons mission were in the rearview mirror, left behind with its historic Pluto encounter in 2015. Then, early last year, the spacecraft streaked by Arrokoth, a bit of flotsam drifting through the Kuiper Belt—the diffuse ring of primitive icy bodies beyond Neptune, of which Pluto is the largest member.
Sky and Telescope 19 Feb 2020, 15:32 UTC With the February dark of the Moon upon us, we have a fine opportunity to enjoy some winter sights. Perhaps most appealing for naked-eye observers is an impressive collection of stellar luminaries. Face south at nightfall, and no fewer than seven stars of first magnitude or brighter can be taken in with a single view. Most are included in the Winter Hexagon, as shown in the chart above.
Bad Astronomy 19 Feb 2020, 14:00 UTC A team of astronomers has just announced they may have found a planet orbiting the red dwarf star GJ 1151, but the technique is entirely novel: The planet is interacting with the star magnetically, creating an aurora not on the planet but on the star itself!
Centauri Dreams 18 Feb 2020, 17:25 UTC The 30th anniversary of the famous ‘Pale Blue Dot’ image of Earth, which took place on February 14, is an appropriate occasion for the newly updated image below, which brings the latest methods to bear on the data Voyager 1 presented us. Our planet takes up less than a single pixel and for that reason is not fully resolved. The rays of sunlight due to scattering within the camera optics intersect with Earth, reminding us that from Voyager’s position 6 billion kilometers from home, the Earth/Sun separation was only a matter of a few degrees.
Bad Astronomy 18 Feb 2020, 14:00 UTC On January 1, 2019 — just three and half years after it passed Pluto — the new Horizons spacecraft zipped past the Kuiper Belt Object called (at that time) 2014 MU69. We knew a little about it before the encounter, like that it traveled around the Sun in a fairly circular path 6.6 billion kilometers away, and that it was either a binary object or bilobed; two objects connected together like the comet 67P. But then New Horizons sailed past it at a distance of only 3,500 kilometers — after traveling more than 6 billion — and we learned a lot more.
astrobites 17 Feb 2020, 23:22 UTC TRAPPIST-1 might be the best known system with multiple planets, but HR 8799 has quite a few cool things going for it, too. It’s one of the first systems discovered with direct imaging (actually taking pictures of the planets themselves), and since then people have been observing its four planets moving around in their orbits. The kinds of planets we see around HR 8799 are also very different than those around TRAPPIST-1. The transit method, used to discover the 7 terrestrial TRAPPIST-1 planets, is better suited to find planets very close to their host stars. Direct imaging, on the other hand, is best for the biggest, furthest out planets – young super-Jupiters and brown dwarfs, orbiting 10s to 100s of AU from their stars.
Starts With a Bang! 17 Feb 2020, 15:01 UTC We’ve come fantastically far in our understanding of the distant Universe. Here’s how we’ll go even farther.