Landscapes on the Moon and Mars

The Moon's 2,000m-high Sculptured Hills looks deveptively low

Landscape panoramas imaged by robotic eyes on Mars show a world with the visual cues that humans have come to rely on here on Earth


When the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Opportunity trundled to the edge of Endeavour Crater back in August, it was the end of a three-year journey from its last major destination, Victoria Crater.

The fact that the distance between the two craters is 21km shows how carefully Opportunity takes it.

But, as the scientists and engineers on the MER say, when you’re an average of 225 million km from home you want to take it slowly, partly not to miss anything interesting and partly to avoid hazards.

Harvesting full Moon names

The Harvest Moon

There are many names for full Moons, and just as many reasons behind them


I’ll be keeping an eye out for the Harvest Moon in September. It’s quite a sight – the full and golden orb rising above the horizon through the gathering dusk – and one of the few times when I’m not wishing the Moon was less illuminated.

Why is it called the Harvest Moon? Well, the full Moon closest to the autumn equinox rises close to sunset for several days either side of being full, instead of rising around 50 minutes later each day, as is normally the case.

Comet and Cluster

Comet Garradd passes the globular cluster, M15 in the constellation of Pegasus during the first few days of August 2011. Here's how to find it and what it should look like.

Comet Garradd will be edging past the relatively bright mag. +6.4 globular cluster M15 in Pegasus, the Flying Horse, in the early hours of tomorrow morning, 3 August.

Closest approach is shown in the mock-up, here. M15 is relatively easy to locate by drawing a line from star Theta (θ) to Epsilon (ε) Pegasi, or Enif. Extending the line by half as much again will bring you right to M15.

Artificial Flares

Love them or loathe them, artificial satellites aren't going to go away. So why not make the most of them by enjoying some of the amazing effects they can produce. In this blog entry, I'll show you how to see one of the most spectacular events of all - an Iridium Flare.

What is an Iridium Flare?

An Iridium Flare occurs when sunlight is reflected off an Iridium communications satellite in low orbit around the Earth. The satellite has three door-sized reflective antennae which, if they catch the Sun’s light correctly, reflect it back so that it can be seen at certain locations on the Earth's surface.

What’s so special about an Iridium Flare?

A journey into space with Brian Cox, Colin Pillinger and Martin Rees

Learned men of science and astronomy take a voyage into the cosmos

Massing or Missing?

If you're having trouble spotting the dawn planets in the May sky, don't worry - you're not alone!

If you look up in the May 2011 night sky, you might start to wonder where all the planets have gone. Saturn's still there of course, heading ever closer to the star at the base of the 'Bowl of Virgo' known as Gamma Virginis or Porrima, but the other's are notably absent. 

A spring lunar mosaic

Why lunar mosaics are popular in the spring.

It's spring time and when the Moon's close to its first quarter phase it tends to sit high in the sky after sunset and looks quite superb. If you're into deep sky observing/imaging, the natural light pollution from the Moon is a bit of a pain, casting a glare across the sky which can cause all manner of issues with your shots. If you're into Solar System imaging on the other hand, the lure of the Moon is irresistible.

Star parties for beginners

Beginners astronomy events are increasingly popular, thanks to tie-ups between local astronomy groups and conservation organisations

Astronomy has been enjoying an unexpected boost in popularity lately. I have it on good authority that sales of telescope spiked after Stargazing Live in January, and a star party I attended in early March had a bigger crowd than an event at the same location a few months earlier.

Stargazing with the National Trust

The National Trust star parties held at Tyntesfield near Bristol are bringing a new audience to amateur astronomy.

The man from Bristol Astronomical Society was explaining the concept of relative sizes and distances. The Moon, he said, was much smaller than the Sun but just happened to be close enough to cover it up during an eclipse. A lady in front of me was clearly impressed. "We didn’t get that from the trendy professor," she remarked, adding "It was all very morose…"

A Basic Guide to Telescope Mounts

A description of the basic types of mount most commonly used for both visual and imaging purposes.

Mounts come in two basic types – alt-az and equatorial. Although they sound different, they’re actually very closely related, an equatorial mount being essentially an alt-az mount with one axis tilted over so that it points at your local celestial pole. In the UK for example, as we’re in the Northern Hemisphere, our local celestial pole is the North Celestial Pole (NPC) which is roughly marked by the star Polaris.

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