Now two-years into its quest to find transiting exoplanets, the Kepler spacecraft’s findings are already transforming what we know about planets around other stars; Keith Cooper provides an overview of the major trends it has discovered thus far and later asks, what does it take to decree a planet as truly habitable to life as we know it? And are there habitable zones for life as we don’t know it? Meanwhile Gemma Lavender explores the idea that Earth is not only in a special place around the Sun, but that our Sun is also in a special place in the Galaxy. What will happen after Kepler? Gemma explores the challenges that astronomers will face in characterising exoplanets in the future, and presents some of the tools already lined up to fill Kepler's shoes.
Mars rover Curiosity steals the show this month as it awaits launch to the red planet in late November. The next generation of Mars rover, it will search for signs of life and past climates in a large impact crater; Emily Baldwin introduces the mission. Elsewhere in the Universe, recent findings have delved deeper into the inner sanctum of a black hole's accretion disc than ever before, learns Keith Cooper, who also looks at an ancient supernova explosion that may have finally been explained. Neil English resurrects the master's glass and talks to Steve Collingwood of BC&F about the challenge of restoring Sir Patrick Moore's beloved first telescope.
In our night sky section we present a bumper four-page tour of the delights of Orion; in Telescope Talk Martin Mobberley shows you how to keep your telescope cool for superior viewing, and we have reviews of Lunt's 60mm solar telescope and Finger Lakes Instrumentation's Proline 16803 CCD. There's also an extra page dedicated to your images in Picture Gallery!
Plus, don't miss our AstroFest pull-out, now complete with conference programme, as well as exhibitor list, venue and booking details.