Apollo astronaut Eugene Cernan passes away aged 82
  Former Apollo astronaut Eugene ‘Gene’ Cernan, the last human to set foot on the Moon, has passed away aged 82. Cernan’s career saw him fly three times in space, including two Apollo missions, 10 and 17, the latter of which saw him set foot on the Moon. Eugene Cernan was born 14 March 1934 in Chicago in the US and eventually became a captain in the US Navy before joining NASA. His first spaceflight mission was piloting the Gemini 9 orbiting capsule with Commander Thomas P. Stafford in June 1966. During this mission, he completed a spacewalk of two hours eight minutes. At the time, this was the longest spacewalk yet. Then in May 1969, Cernan was lunar module pilot of Apollo 10, the mission before the Apollo flight that took Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the surface of the Moon for the first time. Apollo 10 ultimately confirmed that the command, service and lunar modules would be fit for humans to land on the Moon. Cernan was part of the last human mission to the Moon, Apollo 17, which launched in December 1972. During the mission, the crew took the now iconic image of Earth, at a distance of 45,000km from the planet. The mission saw Cernan and Harrison H. Schmitt make three separate trips to nearby craters and the Taurus Littrow mountains on the lunar surface. When the crew left for their return journey to Earth, Cernan was the last to leave, making him the last human being to have walked on the lunar surface. The Apollo missions were one of the defining moments of the 1960s, and Cernan would later say: “It's going to be - well it's almost fifty now, but fifty or a hundred years in the history of mankind before we look back and really understand the meaning of Apollo. Really understand what humankind had done when we left, when we truly left this planet, we're able to call another body in this Universe our home. We did it way too early considering what we're doing now in space. It's almost as if JFK reached out into the twenty-first century where we are today, grabbed hold of a decade of time, slipped it neatly into the (nineteen) sixties and seventies (and) called it Apollo." Cernan’s NASA career ended on 1 July 1976 when he retired from the Navy after 20 years of service.  He passed away on 16 January 2017 and is survived by his wife Jan Nanna Cernan, a daughter and son-in-law, step-daughters and nine grandchildren. In 2016, a documentary entitled The Last Man On The Moon was released, telling the story of Cernan's life and his thoughts on the Apollo programme. Below are some clips from the documentary, in which Cernan reflects on what he achieved and the philosophies he brought back from the lunar surface.     Gene Cernan recalls sitting on 'God's front porch', in this clip from the documentary @LastManOnMoon #RIPGeneCernan — Sky at Night Mag (@skyatnightmag) January 19, 2017 Gene Cernan recalls sitting on 'God's front porch', in this clip from the documentary @LastManOnMoon #RIPGeneCernan — Sky at Night Mag (@skyatnightmag) January 19, 2017 Gene Cernan revisits the Apollo 17 capsule that brought him to the Moon, in this clip from the documentary @LastManOnMoon #RIPGeneCernan — Sky at Night Mag (@skyatnightmag) January 19, 2017 In this amazing clip from @LastManOnMoon, Gene Cernan reveals how he and colleagues prepared to travel into space. #RIPGeneCernan — Sky at Night Mag (@skyatnightmag) January 18, 2017
Our pick of some of the spacecraft's best shots of the Saturnian system
  The NASA Cassini mission has revealed to us some of the most amazing wonders of Saturn and its moons. Having been active for nearly 13 years, the orbiter will finally call it a day in September 2017 after traversing through Saturn’s ring and fatally plunging into the planet's surface, marking the end of its voyage.  As Cassini prepares for the final stages of its mission, we look back on some of its best images captured so far. Written by Anton Agejev
US astronaut became first American to orbit Earth and oldest person in space
  John Glenn, the former US astronaut who became the first American to orbit Earth, has died at the age of 95. He had been in hospital in Columbus, Ohio, for over a week and passed away while surrounded by his children and wife of 73 years, Annie. Glenn was best known for having flown into space in the Friendship 7 orbiter on 20 February 1962 as one of NASA’s original Mercury astronauts, the first US programme to put men in space. He was one of seven astronauts on the mission, which involved six manned flights into space from 1961 to 1963 and saw the US begin to seriously contend with the Soviet Union in the space race. Glenn’s Mercury flight could have ended in disaster when his spacecraft’s automatic system failed at the end of his first orbit of Earth. However, he had previously trained for a scheduled 30-minute test during which he was to fly the spacecraft manually, and his training kicked in.  "I went to manual control and continued in that mode during the second and third orbits, and during re-entry," he would later say. "The malfunction just forced me to prove very rapidly what had been planned over a longer period of time." The Friendship 7 orbiter's warning system then signalled that its heat shield was loose, a fault that could have caused it to burn up on reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. Glenn’s life was saved by not jettisoning the retropack that was attached to the spacecraft, which was able to hold the heat shield in place. John Glenn was born on 18 July 1921 in Cambridge, Ohio, in the United States. Previous to his time flying into space as a NASA astronaut, he joined the US Marine Corps in 1943 and went on to fly 59 combat missions during World War II. He retired as an astronaut on 16 January 1964 and left the Marine Corps on 1 January 1965, later being elected to the US Senate as a Democrat in 1974 and beginning a successful career in US politics. Glenn would become the oldest person to fly into space when on 29 October 1998 at the age of 77 he launched onboard the space shuttle orbiter Discovery for a nine-day mission. During his time in space he took part in scientific tests to study how humans age. In 2011, he received the Congressional Gold Medal and a year later was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by US President Barack Obama. In a statement following the news of Glenn's passing, President Obama said: “John spent his life breaking barriers. (He) always had the right stuff, inspiring generations of scientists, engineers and astronauts who will take us to Mars and beyond - not just to visit, but to stay. The last of America's first astronauts has left us, but propelled by their example we know that our future here on Earth compels us to keep reaching for the heavens.” NASA administrator Charles Bolden said: “Glenn's extraordinary courage, intellect, patriotism and humanity were the hallmarks of a life of greatness. His missions have helped make possible everything our space program has since achieved and the human missions to an asteroid and Mars that we are striving toward now.”  
Our pick of some of the amazing 'supermoon' images sent in by you
Our pick of the best perigee syzygy Moon - or 'supermoon' - images sent in by you.
The world's biggest astrophotography competition reveals this year's top images
The winner of this year’s Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition has been announced as Yu Jun, who managed to secure a top prize of £10,000 with his image of Baily’s Beads. Judge and Royal Observatory Public Astronomer Dr Marek Kukula says: “This is such a visually striking image, with its succession of fiery arcs all perfectly balanced around the pitch black circle of totality. It’s even more impressive when you realise what it shows: the progress of a solar eclipse, all compressed into a single frame with consummate skill and precision. A tremendous achievement that pushes the boundaries of what modern astrophotography can achieve.” Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year is the biggest astrophotography competition in the world. This year, judges selected 11 winners from over 4,500 entries across 80 countries. The winning images of 2016 are now available to view in a free exhibition at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, so be sure to pay a visit to view the work of some of the top astrophotographers capturing the cosmos today. If you find yourself inspired and would like to enter next year’s competition, keep an eye out for the 2017 submission dates on the IAPY website.
Royal Observatory Greenwich release a taster of this year's amazing entries
A selection of the shortlisted images from the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016 competition has been released by the Royal Observatory Greenwich, giving a taste of the amazing astrophotos submitted this year. 2016 saw IAPY continue to grow as an internationally acclaimed competition, welcoming over 4,500 entries from over 80 countries: the largest number since the competition began in 2009. From aurorae to galaxies, nightscapes and startrails to planets, nebulae, the Sun and the Moon, the 2016 selection is truly a celebration of the beauty of our Solar System and beyond. Have look in our gallery at some of the images that caught the judges' attention this year. The winners of the competition will be announced on 15 September at a ceremony at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. A free exhibition of the winning images will be open to the public at the observatory from 17 September. If you would like to get involved and wow the judges with your own astrophotos, keep an eye out for the 2017 submission dates, as well as tips on how to get started, at the Royal Observatory Greenwich website.
The top 10 Apollo 11 historic sights here on Earth
Forty-seven years ago today, two men walked on the Moon for the very first time. The scientific importance of the Apollo 11 mission's importance is often over-played – the other 10 astronauts in the Apollo Program that walked on the Moon had much longer missions on the surface than 11’s two and a half hours, and so achieved more scientifically. But it was Apollo 11 that brought back the first photographs, the first impressions, and the first physical rock samples from another world. Their lunar samples confirmed that the Moon had a common origin to Earth – cue the 'giant impact' theory – while seismometers laid by Armstrong and Aldrin measured Moon-quakes that proved that the Moon had a core, a mantle and a crust, just like Earth. The historic places and treasured memorabilia from the Apollo 11 mission is mostly preserved and easy to find, but only if you know where to look.  Words: Jamie Carter
Our pick of some of the images of the 9th May event sent in by you
On 9 May, Mercury passed in front of the Sun in a rare event known as a transit. Many of you got in touch via social media to share your photos of the occurrence, or uploaded them to our Hotshots gallery. Here we present some of our favourite images of the Mercury transit captured by amateur astrophotographers.
To celebrate our home planet we take a unique orbital view of it
On Earth Day, the world celebrates our planet and thinks about how we can protect our home. This 22 April we turn to ESA astronaut Tim Peake, whose current home on the International Space Station gives him a unique view of the world he has temporarily left behind. Here we show some of his best pictures of Earth he has taken during his stay. Credit all images: ESA/NASA    
The deadline looms for Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016
There are now just two weeks left to enter this year's Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. Run by the Royal Observatory Greenwich in association with Insight Investment and BBC Sky at Night Magazine, the competition encourages astronomers and photographers alike to capture their best images of the night sky for the chance to win a top prize and a place in an exhibition at the observatory. This year’s competition closes at 12pm (BST) on 14 April, so if you haven’t yet submitted your entry, there is still time to do so. The winner of IAPY 2015 will take home a top prize of £10,000, and there are nine main categories in which to wow this year’s judges: Skyscapes: Landscape and cityscape images of twilight and the night sky featuring the Milky Way, star trails, meteor showers, comets, conjunctions, constellation rises, halos and noctilucent clouds, alongside elements of earthly scenery. Aurorae: Photographs featuring auroral activity. People and Space: Photographs of the night sky including people or a human interest element. Our Sun: Solar images including solar eclipses and transits. Our Moon: Lunar images including lunar eclipses and occultation of planets. Planets, Comets and Asteroids: Everything else in our Solar System, including planets and their satellites, comets, asteroids and other forms of zodiacal debris. Stars and Nebulae: Deep-space objects within the Milky Way including stars, star clusters, supernova remnants, nebulae and other intergalactic phenomena. Galaxies: Deep space objects beyond the Milky Way including galaxies, galaxy clusters, and stellar associations. Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year: Pictures taken by budding astronomers under the age of 16 years old. Returning again this year are two special prizes in the shape of The Sir Patrick Moore Prize for Best Newcomer, awarded to the best photo by an amateur astrophotographer who has taken up the hobby in the past year, and Robotic Scope, for images taken using a computer-controlled telescope. This year's judges include Turner prize-winning artist Wolfgang Tillmans, The Sky at Night presenter Dr Chris Lintott, Royal Observatory Greenwich Public Astronomer Dr Marek Kukula and BBC Sky at Night Magazine editor Chris Bramley. As a taster of what to expect from this year's competition, the Royal Observatory Greenwich has released some of the images submitted in 2016 so far. So have a look, get inspired and get snapping! To enter and for more information, visit the IAPY 2016 web page here.  
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