The black hole in the system MAXI J1659-152 appears to have lived up to its reputation. Over the last few billion years, the black hole may have slowly devoured most of a companion star, leaving behind only a tiny remnant that is continuing to pour material into the black hole. This process has pulled the two objects into the tightest orbit yet observed for a black-hole system.
New & Updated
Wherever your summer travels take you, use the StarDate Telescopes Guide to find an observatory, planetarium, astronomy club, or other group that offers views of the night sky through a telescope. We've added more than 40 locations to our listings, bringing the total to 75, spread across most of the states, from Maine to Hawaii. Many are free, while others charge only a nominal fee.
The shower will be at its best after dark on Thursday, December 13, and before dawn on Friday, December 14. The Moon is new on the 13th, so it won’t interfere with the show. Named for Gemini, the twins, this shower can be one of the year’s best, with some of the brightest meteors, although its peak viewing time is shorter than that of some other showers.
Take our new online quiz and win a printed poster for HETDEX, the Hobby-Eberly Telescope Dark Energy Experiment. All the answers can be found in the HETDEX web site, so you can catch up with the science of this cutting-edge research project.
The Orionid meteor shower should be at its best the nights of Saturday, October 20, and Sunday, October 21. The Moon sets by around midnight, so it won’t pollute the sky with light during the peak meteor-watching hours.
Our November/December issue commemorates a half-century of planetary encounters. In 1962, with its flyby of Venus, Mariner 2 became the first spacecraft to successfully reach another planet. And looking farther into the past, learn how astronomy helped Renaissance explorers understand they'd found a new world.
The Moon is a thin crescent that rises about three hours before the Sun, so it will provide little interference. At the shower’s peak you might see a few dozen meteors per hour.
In July and August, StarDate brings you feature-length excerpts from new books in astronomy that take you through space and back in time, all without leaving your chair. We also bring you great summer skywatching tips and maps, and the latest astronomy news.
The second half of a twice-in-a-lifetime astronomical event takes place on June 5, 2012: a transit of Venus across the face of the Sun. The planet will look like a small black dot slowly creeping across the Sun’s northern hemisphere. It will be visible across the entire United States, but you will need eye protection to view it.