Preparing to explore our Solar System’s ice moons
Ask a planetary biologist to list where in the Solar System is most likely to harbour life and occupying several of the top spots will be the icy moons. These frozen satellites of the gas and ice giants may appear to be the last place for life to gain a foothold, but all is not as it seems. On page 36, Elizabeth Pearson peers beneath their surfaces to uncover oceans of liquid water and speaks to the scientists planning missions to these strange cryovolcanic worlds.
It’s only with space missions that we have gained such an understanding of the conditions on bodies hundreds of millions of kilometres from Earth. To understand the quality of observations astronomers achieved in the past, astro-adventurers Scott Lange and Nick Foster set off to the 19thcentury Lick Observatory in California. See what views of Europa and its parent planet Jupiter greeted them on page 67.
For your own astro-adventure this spring, look no further than page 30. Astronomer Will Gater has six of the best projects for all experiences, taking in views at the eyepiece, objects to sketch and targets to image. There’s sure to be something for everyone.
It’s a concerning fact that for more and more of us, objects like those in Will’s feature are harder to see because of light pollution. As Earth Hour on 24 March asks us to switch our lights off for an hour to highlight the problem, on page 42 lighting engineer Allan Howard is our expert guide to lighting units that will preserve your dark skies.
Enjoy the issue.