The Universe was not always as it appears today: the first stars were exotic, immense and extraordinarily violent, and they set in motion events that helped form the Universe around us today. But the birth and growth of the first galaxies is concealed in a distant, shadowy epoch of cosmic time known as the dark ages – we attempt to penetrate this darkness and discover the origins of galaxies, with a little help from the likes of the Hubble Space Telescope.
Meanwhile, it may be curtains for the space shuttle, but attention is now squarely focused on the International Space Station. Is the orbiting outpost’s scientific output enough to justify its existence? Emily Baldwin investigates. Gemma Lavender has the lowdown on Grail – a new NASA mission consisting of twin spacecraft that makes its way to the Moon this month to probe our satellite’s interior. Some missions to the planets never get off the drawing board, never mind the launch pad. Michael Carroll looks back at some of the interplanetary missions that never were.
In our night sky section we have a sky tour of Cassiopeia and how to observe Uranus as it reaches opposition; there's two equipment reviews – the Coronado Solarmax 60 II solar filter, and Meade’s new StarNavigator software with Audiostar enhancement – and in Telescope Talk Grant Privett shows you how to adapt to adaptive imaging.