Matter in the large-scale Universe is distributed into filaments of normal and dark matter, and now this creates the background glows in the sky that we see at different wavelengths. This month's focus takes these wavelengths in turn to see what we can learn about the origin and evolution of the Universe. First up is the cosmic microwave background, the faint static of the big bang, followed by the cosmic infrared background, which reveals the dust in star-forming galaxies that tells us how galaxies have grown throughout time. Then it's time to tune into the extragalactic radio background to find out what has been amplifying the radio waves originating from distant galaxies, before soaking up the X-ray background produced by some of the Universe's more violent environments such as active black holes. Meanwhile the gamma-ray background may help point astronomers towards dark matter.
It's a bumper issue of features this month, including a look-back over the history of Astronomy Now as we celebrate 25 years of the magazine this issue. We also have a round-up of AstroFest 2012, with photography by Max Alexander. Meanwhile astrophotographer David Ratledge shows step-by-step how to bring out the true colours of the Moon, Keith Cooper looks into the abyss of black holes as a powerful network of radio telescopes prepares to stare deep into the event horizon of these galactic monsters, and Gemma Lavender tackles the whirling dervishes of the Universe: pulsars. The greatest telescopes of the late nineteenth century were the great refractors constructed by the American Alvan Clark and Sons, but how do their optics stack up over a century later? Neil English has the answer.
Our night sky section boasts a new at-a-glance guide to the night sky, plus a galaxy tour of Virgo, and Saturn at opposition. In the shops includes a review of Vixen's new Polarie camera tracking mount and Telescope Talk tackles the problem of dew, and how to drift align an equatorial mount.