People: You won't dissolve my baby, will you?

"YOUR hands look quite elegant," says Kate Dineen to her sister Molly. "Mine are complete mallets."

People: Lynda sifts the evidence

It was raining the morning I went to meet Lynda La Plante. It was heavy, remorseless rain, the kind of rain that in a La Plante mini- series usually heralds bad news of one kind or another. It was raining like this when a murder victim's head was discovered in the first ever Prime Suspect. And the rain will be pouring down again next Sunday evening as the police hunt for a missing child in La Plante's latest four-hour two-parter, Trial and Retribution.

Brighter than 10 million suns

The star at the centre of this picture is brighter than 10 million Suns, and so big that if it were at the centre of our solar system it would swallow the Earth. Yet it has taken the power of the Hubble Space Telescope to produce this detailed image of the "Pistol Star", which lies about 25,000 light-years away from Earth, towards the centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

The Sky at Night

Saturn is presently located in the dim and difficult constellation of Pisces, far outshining any of it stars. On the night of the 21st/22nd, the waning gibbous Moon, following its eastward track in the sky, skims past Saturn missing the planet by a whisker. The pair rise at about 9.45pm BST that evening though it will be around midnight before they are high enough above the east-south-east horizon to be easily visible. Over the course of the rdght, the Moon gradually edges its way below Saturn, closing the gap until there is only half a degree between them at 3.45am. After that they pull apart again. This fine celestial alignment is a foretaste of the encounter to come in the early hours of 12 November, when the Moon will occult Saturn completely for about an hour.

A body worth a fortune

Simply divine, says William Hartston as he explores the lost arts of fortune-telling from bodies, beasts and other balderdash

the stars : Twilight zone

Although the sky is never truly dark in summer, now is the time to spot the beautiful and elusive noctilucent clouds.

UFOs, ghosts, crop circles: sceptics fight back

Fifty years ago, an American pilot spotted flying saucers. Now gullibility seems to have taken over. Roger Dobson talks to some doubters

Six new stars are born amid gas and dust

The right-hand frame here contains not one star, but seven - though the dimmer six are all the offspring of the larger, central one. New pictures from the Hubble space telescope, using its infrared camera, have provided scientists with direct evidence that huge stars can throw off enough dust and gas to create "baby" stars, visible here as the six fainter dots in the picture.

Cheer up, it's National Eternal Verities Day

In this age of change, as we sweep towards the 21st century and a world of Internet and computers, and away from the simple verities of the 20th century like world wars and genocide, I find that many people feel they have nothing safe and sure left to hold on to.

Election '97: It's in the stars ... Major faces a cosmic meltdown

John Major may as well stay in bed today. It's not just the pollsters who are predicting a disaster, he also faces a cosmic meltdown. The Prime Minister could not have chosen a worse time to call the election, according to the astrologers. He has played right into Tony Blair's Venus ascendant. Unless the stars are wrong, it will be a Labour government leading Britain into the new millenium. Paddy Ashdown cannot expect much immediate change from today. But for him things can only get better. He may yet find himself part of a Lib-Lab coalition, because although the stars are favouring Mr Blair at the moment, he may have problems with his backbenchers in the future.

Science: The Stats - The illusion of the ecliptic

As comet Hale-Bopp fades from view, Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest explain why our solar system is in the shape of a disc with the Sun at its centre

Jump clear of the market when Mars enters Libra

pounds 10bn worth of investment funds are influenced by astrology

Sorry, John: there's no solace in the stars

No prizes for guessing what John Major will be wishing for when he blows out his 54 candles at his birthday tea today. Election victory is not, however, written in his stars. It is, say astrologers, more a case of New Moon, New Labour.

LETTER : Bad astrology

With reference to Iain Sharp's letter (2 March), it is not the reputation of astrology that is at issue but merely that of the astrologer who made the predictions referred to. Astrology has good and bad practitioners and should not be judged by those foolish enough to make such predictions in public.

Big guys vs Hale-Bopp

A comet is about to take on the superheroes, report Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest
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