Astronomy photographer of the year 2014: the shortlist - in pictures

This colourful starscape taken from Rancho Hidalgo, New Mexico by Mark Hanson reveals the searing heat of the Crescent Nebula glowing in a whirl of red and blue. See the shortlist in full

Photo: Mark Hanson/Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2014

The world’s most widely used insecticides have contaminated the environment across the planet so pervasively that global food production is at risk. Full story here

Mountain top blown up to make way for world’s largest telescope – watch live

Construction of the E-ELT monster telescope starts on Thursday with the blasting of a million tonnes of rock from a mountain top. Watch the livestream here

Photo: Sebastián R Aguila/ESO

Earth may have underground ‘ocean’ three times that on surface

After decades of searching scientists have discovered that a vast reservoir of water, enough to fill the Earth’s oceans three times over, may be trapped hundreds of miles beneath the surface, potentially transforming our understanding of how the planet was formed. Full story here

Photo: Blue Line Pictures/Getty Images

In 1972 Apollo 17 astronaut Captain Eugene Cernan became the last man on the moon. His story is told by director Mark Craig in Last Man on the Moon, a documentary screening at this year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest.

Craig shows the Apollo astronauts – now in their 80s – recalling an era when America had a presidential mandate to be daring, a license to venture into the unknown. Read more

A giant rocky planet roughly twice the size of Earth and with nearly 20 times as much mass has been spotted in orbit around a faraway star. The planet is the first to be classed as a “mega-Earth” – an alien world that dwarfs the other rocky planets known to exist outside the solar system. More on this story

Illustration: CfA/David A Aguilar