Sky & Telescope October 2016Shedding Light on Pluto, Finding Life on Mars

New Horizons' flight past Pluto last year revealed a stunning world we couldn't have dreamed up — now scientists are sifting through the data, trying to make sense of this frozen wonderland. A little closer to home, ExoMars is due to arrive at the Red Planet by September. It will be the first probe to carry instruments specifically designed to search for signs of life on a world that still holds its own fair share of secrets. And a bit farther afield (7,500 light-years or so from Earth), astronomers are finally beginning to get a handle on Eta Carinae, the supernova that wasn't. Meanwhile, while Pluto and Mars may not be at their best this October, the others beckon: Saturn, Venus, Uranus, and Neptune, to name a few, as well as treasures held in the celestial Swan.

Feature Articles

Panorama of crescent Pluto
New Horizons recorded this oblique, backlit panorama of Pluto from 18,000 km away.

New Horizons I: Pluto's Amazing Story
This distant world bristles with geologic diversity unmatched in the outer solar system.
By J. Kelly Beatty

Looking for Life on Mars
The first phase of the ExoMars mission arrives at the Red Planet this month to search for evidence of past or present life.
By Camille M. Carlisle

What Caused the Great Eruption?
New theories and observations are helping astronomers solve the mystery of Eta Carinae's 19th-century explosion.
By Keith Cooper

The Backyard Sky: Fall
Say goodbye to summer with these seasonal sights.
By Rod Mollise

George Willis Ritchey's Great Adventure
The world's giant telescopes today owe their optical design to a star-crossed, obsessive genius.
By Ted Rafferty

Beyond the Printed Page

Eta Carinae
This Hubble Space Telescope image shows the hourglass-shaped Homunculus Nebula that surrounds the supermassive star Eta Carinae.

Eta Carinae
Watch the newest ideas about how this star exploded unfold in 3D.

Light Pollution Report
Read the latest on the status of light pollution around the globe.

LISA Pathfinder Surpasses Expectations
Successful first results pave the way for a future space-based gravitational wave detector.

Lunar Librations
Librations and other lunar data for October 2016.


Tower of Light
Saturn, Venus, and Antares fall into line near the end of October.
By Fred Schaaf

Moon, Aldebaran Meet Again
This time, a grazing occultation crosses Los Angeles and Denver.
By Alan MacRobert

The Celestial Swan
October's familiar skies contain a wealth of fresh sights.
By Sue French

S&T Test Report: Video Astronomy with the Atik Infinity
Atik brings video observing fully into the digital age.
By Rod Mollise

Table of Contents
See what else October's issue has to offer.


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