Now is a great time to see Saturn, perhaps the most beautiful planet in the night sky.
Saturn will be in opposition to the sun on Friday at 10 p.m. EDT (0200 GMT on May 23). This means that the ringed planet will be directly opposite the sun in our sky. It will rise as the sun sets in the evening, shine brightly all night long, and set as the sun rises at dawn.
If you just look at the sky on a single night, everything seems quite static. But if you watch Saturn over a period of a few weeks, for example, and note its position against the background stars, you will see that it is in constant motion.
Currently Saturn is moving with what is called “retrograde motion,” from left to right against the background stars. This is actually an optical illusion caused by the Earth’s much more rapid movement around the sun. Once the Earth is well past Saturn in early August, Saturn will appear to reverse directions and begin moving in its true direction, from right to left.
The Dawn spacecraft has started orbiting Ceres, the largest-known body in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, taking “close-up” images that scientists hope will reveal the mystery of a pair of bright spots on the dwarf planet – http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/mar/06/dawn-starts-to-orbit-ceres-in-mission-to-photograph-dwarf-planet
More on the Dawn Mission here – https://plus.google.com/+dawnmission/posts
The 950km-wide object, known as Ceres, has been pictured at a resolution that exceeds anything seen previously by telescopes, even Hubble.
Nasa’s Dawn spacecraft can see details on the icy rock’s surface down to a scale of 22km per pixel. The new picture was taken on Monday, January 26th from a distance of 237,000km – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31009791
See also: http://www.space.com/22891-ceres-dwarf-planet.html
Discovered in 1801, Ceres was once known as a planet, then reclassified as an asteroid. It was recast as a dwarf planet, like Pluto, in 2006.
A Nasa probe is to start photographing the icy world of Pluto, to prepare itself for a historic encounter in July.
The New Horizons spacecraft has travelled 5bn km (3bn miles) over nine years to get near the dwarf planet – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-30954673
The missing Mars robot Beagle2 has been found on the surface of the Red Planet, apparently intact. High-resolution images taken from orbit have identified its landing location, and it looks to be in one piece – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-30784886
Scientists have paired NASA’s Cassini spacecraft with the National Science Foundation’s Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) radio-telescope system to pinpoint the position of Saturn and its family of moons to within about 2 miles (4 kilometres) – http://astronomynow.com/2015/01/09/scientists-pinpoint-saturn-with-exquisite-accuracy/
More about Saturn here – http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/science/index.cfm?SciencePageID=51
There could be at least two unknown planets hidden well beyond Pluto, whose gravitational influence determines the orbits and strange distribution of objects observed beyond Neptune. This has been revealed by numerical calculations made by researchers at the Complutense University of Madrid and the University of Cambridge. – http://phys.org/news/2015-01-trans-neptunian-planets-solar.html
Southampton students aiming to put the first life on Mars – http://www.southampton.ac.uk/mediacentre/news/2014/dec/14_232.shtml – 10 September 2014