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The Pleiades

Bringing a little sparkle to the autumn nights. The Pleiades is an open star cluster in the constellation of Taurus. This enigmatic group of stars is known by many names; the Seven Sisters, Messier 45, and Melotte 22 to name but a few. The Pleiades rise in the east just after sunset from the beginning of […]

Chasing the eclipse

Melanie Davies writes about the 2015 solar eclipse – the last one visible from Europe for more than a decade On the morning of Friday 20th March 2015, we’ll be in for an astronomical treat… an eclipse of the Sun. A total solar eclipse happens roughly once a year somewhere in the world, but we […]

Rosetta: The comet chaser

Melanie Davies reports on her visit to Airbus Defence & Space on the day that a British-built spacecraft delivered a probe to a very alien world. There are not many space missions that have touched the hearts and minds of people throughout the world as much as Rosetta. Named after the Rosetta Stone – a […]

Close encounter of the first kind

Finally, a much-anticipated astronomical event that didn’t leave us disappointed! The close encounter of Comet Siding Spring with Mars on 19th October 2014 resulted in some great imagery and, hopefully, some interesting science to come. Siding Spring passed a mere 87,000 miles above the red planet: less than half the distance between the Earth and […]

Supernova: A blast from the past

Have you ever wondered where the expression “we’re all made of stardust” came from? Well, I’m not sure who first coined the phase, but we are indeed made of stellar stuff. Carbon-based lifeforms (us), silica in the rocks, and oxygen in the atmosphere – all of the elements found within our bodies and in the […]

The Eleven Dwarfs

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) caused a cosmic stir when it kicked Pluto out of the planet gang, demoting it to ‘dwarf planet’ status. The decision by the IAU – the body responsible for naming and categorising astronomical objects – was, and still is, hotly contested. The trouble started in 2005 when Mike Brown, professor of planetary astronomy […]

The fluctuations of our super star

We’ve all been enjoying the summer Sun, but how many of us stop to think about the dynamics of our local star? Throughout history, the Sun has been worshipped and celebrated with rituals and festivals throughout the world. And there’s good reason for celebration; sunshine gives us light and heat – vital ingredients for life […]

Strange New Worlds

Until fairly recently, it was generally thought (and taught) that the planets in our solar system were formed more or less where they currently reside on their solar orbits. Within the the last few decades, planetary scientists have had to re-think this theory. Once we’d all got used to the idea, proposed by Copernicus in […]

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