Astro Blog

29 March 2012

VISTA's superb deep infrared image of Hubble's COSMOS field

A new observation carried out with the VISTA telescope, built here in Oxfordshire and now operating in Chile, has given us the deepest wide-field infrared image of the Universe that will be available from the ground for some years to come... Gavin Dalton introduces the remarkable first-year Ultra-VISTA data.

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28 March 2012

What Can You See in the Night Sky This Week? - Sirius!

Throughout the following days, look towards the South in the evening and you will see a sparkling gem - a bright star called Sirius. In fact, it happens to be the brightest* star you can see in the sky all year round. It is no wonder then that its name is derived from the ancient Greek for "glowing". If you are still not sure which star I am referring to, proceed by first finding the easily identifiable three stars that form Orion's belt (still looking towards the South), then imagine a line running through these and extrapolate it to your left.

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08 March 2012

What Can You See in the Night Sky This Week? - Mizar!

This week's "What's Up" features Mizar and its companion Alcor, a "sextuple star" that was the mediaeval Arabs' idea of an eye test, writes Phil Bull.

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08 March 2012

What Can You See in the Night Sky This Week? Polaris!

Polaris is best known for its position in the night sky: it always appears almost directly North. This is why it is commonly known as both the North Star and the Pole star. To find Polaris, draw a line from the two stars in The Plough which are furthest from its handle (see picture) and keep going; the next prominent star you see will be Polaris, writes David Sinclair.

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07 March 2012

Mayan astronomy for 2012: Looking ahead

The Maya were keen naked-eye astronomers, and made various observations that were startlingly accurate for their time. This year marks the end of the major cycle of the Mayan calendar, which was based on astronomical events. Some people have interpreted the ending of the cycle as a portent of doom, a prediction that the end of the world is upon us! This is nonsense, of course. Celia Escamilla Rivera, of the University of the Basque Country, Bilbao, in Spain, takes us through the event from a Mayan perspective to discover the real significance of this event.

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24 February 2012

What Can You See in the Night Sky This Week? Algol!

Algol, otherwise known as the demon star, is a bright triplet star system located in the constellation Perseus, and can be seen by the naked eye. It takes light 93 years to travel from Algol to Earth, meaning that when you look at Algol, you are seeing it as it was in 1919! To give you an idea of what 93 light-years is in galactic terms, our closest stellar neighbour is Alpha Centauri, and is 4.4 light years from us, writes Paul Brook.

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16 February 2012

What Can You See in the Night Sky This Week? Jupiter!

Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest in our solar system - it weighs about two-and-a-half times as much as all the other planets put together! Given its massive size, it seems appropriate that it was named after the Roman king of the gods. This celestial god can be seen from sunset untill just before 10:00pm in the West, writes Tessa Baker.

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11 February 2012

What Can You See in the Night Sky This Week - The Sombrero Galaxy!

Astronomers sometimes lack imagination when it comes to naming their beloved telescopes and objects in the night sky, but this particular marvel is quite aptly known as ‘The Sombrero Galaxy’. It is in fact an unbarred spiral galaxy, however its orientation with respect to us means that we see it almost edge-on. This gives it the appearance of a Mexican wide-brimmed hat, writes Sarah White.

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08 February 2012

Get involved with your local astro society

Interested in getting more involved and finding out a bit more about astronomy? Why not investigate your local astronomy society? Here's a list of the ones you can find around Oxford.

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06 February 2012

What Can You See in the Night Sky This Week? Venus!

Venus – Earth's sister planet – is the hottest planet in our solar system. It has a sizzling surface temperature of 460 C (860 F). To put that into perspective, the highest recorded temperature on Earth was 57.8 C in Libya on the 13th September, 1922 – around 10% of Venus's average surface temperature. Venus is the second rock from the Sun and is the brightest object in the night sky after the moon, writes Jas Virdee.

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