Why was Pluto downgraded to a dwarf planet?

Matt Francis

Many people will remember the controversy generated back in 2006 when the reclassification of Pluto took place. Pluto’s place as a planet at this point had been questioned since the Seventies. Other objects had been found in the Solar System of a comparable size and these objects weren’t classified as planets.

In August 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) met and redefined exactly what ‘planet’ meant. It was decided that Pluto did not fit within that definition and so it was added to the new classification of dwarf planet. To qualify as a planet an object must orbit

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Which telescope?

You can spot the four moons in modest binoculars, 7×50 or 10×50 being the best for this, and you’ll even be able to watch them weave around the planet night by night. If you have a small telescope where you can increase the magnification depending on which eyepiece you use, you’ll see the planet much more clearly and the moons will be more obvious.

Among the most interesting events to observe in the Solar System are the transits, occultations and shadow transits, where you can watch the shadow cast by a moon move across the surface of Jupiter’s disc. This

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The team that started it all

Kepler space telescope

To date, a huge majority of exoplanets we know of have been discovered by the Kepler space telescope team. Launched on 7 March 2009, Kepler sits in an Earth-trailing orbit around the Sun. Before its launch it was considered possible that planets in the universe were rare. Now, however, its thought that almost every star plays host to at least one planet.

The telescope uses photometry to simultaneously observe thousands of stars. It watches for dips in the brightness of these stars as a planet passes in front, known as a transit, and measuring three of these

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Meet the scientists who are hunting for worlds outside our Solar System in an attempt to find Earth-like planets that, like our own, could be hospitable to life.

Written by Jonathan O’Callaghan

Up until 1992 the thought that there might be other sentient life out there in the universe was one that was generally met with incredulity and disbelief. Those branding aliens as real were looked upon disdainfully, and the mere suggestion that humans were just one of many types of life in the cosmos was not one that was given much credibility.

However, the discovery of an exoplanet (one


Imaging exoplanets

The James Webb Space Telescope

The most exciting area of planet hunting currently being developed is undoubtedly that of direct imaging. To directly image exoplanets, something known as a coronagraph is used, an instrument present on several telescopes including NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. This blocks the light of the host star, allowing the scope to see around the star and possibly detect a planet. On the right of this page you can see an incredible composite image of a dust disc around the Fomalhaut star taken by Hubble, and within this disc a planet called Fomalhaut b was discovered on

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How planets form.

Discover how our home, along with our Solar System neighbours and every other planet in the universe, was born from a chaotic cloud of dust and gas.

In a sense, planetary birth is a side effect of a larger birth: the formation of a star. Stars form from nebulas, massive clouds of gas and dust dominated by hydrogen and helium. Now and then, a disturbance in a nebula concentrates an area of gas and dust into a denser knot of material. If the knot is big enough and dense enough, it will exert enough gravitational pull to collapse in on

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How big does a planet or moon have to be to have a molten core?

Alexander Banks

The structure of the core itself is an interesting topic as the majority of objects have both an inner and outer core. The inner core is generally solid, this is due to the immense pressure forcing the core together. The outer core tends to be molten, this molten core is what is responsible for an object’s magnetic field. Almost every planet or moon in our Solar System is thought to have some form of core. However, these cores vary in size depending on the object. Rocky objects, such as the smaller planets and moons, tend to have cores

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Depth of the ocean

Omega’s new Seamaster Planet Ocean has been reworked and outfitted with the brand’s in-house chronograph movement. Does it sink or swim?

Omega got the watch world ’s attention in 1999 when it introduced the co-axial escapement. Never before had a brand used anything other than a Swiss lever escapement in a serially manufactured wrist-watch. At first, only specially modified ETA calibers were equipped with the new escapement, which was developed by George Daniels, but in 2007 it was also incorporated in Omega’s first manufacture movement, Caliber 8500.

This movement finally provided enough space to construct the co-axial escapement on three

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All About…NEPTUNE.

A frozen world on the outermost limits of our Solar System, Neptune is a mysterious planet with its own unique characteristics.

Each planet is unique, and Neptune’s claim to fame is being the first planet to be discovered not by observation, but by prediction. French astronomer Alexis Bouvard spent a lot of time closely observing the orbit of Uranus, and detected a gravitational perturbation that he deduced could only be explained by the existence of another planet. From his observations, other astronomers calculated the location of Neptune. To be fair, Galileo actually spotted Neptune more than 200 years before, but

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Some people are still unhappy about Pluto’s demotion to a dwarf planet, but it’s in good company — there are some fascinating celestial bodies in this category.

What makes a planet a planet? We’ve been debating this almost since planets were discovered. In 2006, the International Astronomical Union came up with the first-ever scientific definition of a planet. With that came a new classification for these heavenly bodies that weren’t quite planets, but were more than just asteroids. While this resulted in the demotion of Pluto — previously our ninth planet — it also meant that there was a whole

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