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Your online destination for news articles on planets, cosmology, NASA, space missions, and more. You’ll also find information on how to observe upcoming visible sky events such as meteor showers, solar and lunar eclipses, key planetary appearances, comets, and asteroids.

Monday, August 13, 2018

A 60-year race to touch the Sun

We often equate light with a lack of mystery. We elucidate or illuminate answers. So it’s tad ironic that the brightest object in our solar system remains one of its most mysterious. Scientists still don’t understand why the Sun’s ...
Friday, August 10, 2018

The sky this week for August 10 to 19

Friday, August 10 Evenings this week are great times to explore the constellation Sagittarius the Archer. This star group lies due south and at peak altitude between 10 and 11 p.m. local daylight time, well after the last vestiges of twilight have f...

How NASA protects its solar probe from the Sun

In ancient Greek mythology, Icarus’ newly crafted wings made him exceedingly bold and confident. Overcome with ecstasy, he soared too close to the Sun, melting his wings until he fell back to Earth. Are humans about to share a similar fate with...

Sorry, neighboring Omega Centauri is probably uninhabitable

Well, it looks like we’re going to have to look farther than we thought for intergalactic extraterrestrial life. Astronomers have long held out hope that Omega Centauri, a massive globular cluster just 16,000 light years away, harbors habitabl...
Thursday, August 9, 2018

We’re livestreaming the Perseid meteor shower

The annual Perseid meteor shower is one of the most famous meteor showers of the year. Originating in the direction of the constellation Perseus the Hero, the Perseids arise from debris left in the inner solar system as comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle orbits...
Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Why is Europa whistling?

Jupiter’s moons “hum” — and researchers are trying to figure out why. New research published Tuesday in Nature Communications details the discovery of “whistler” radio waves coming from two of the moons: Ganymede ...

The microlaunch space race has begun

In the vastness of space, unfathomable size is generally the norm. But when Jordi Puig-Suari, an aerospace engineering professor, began looking at the stars, he started thinking small. Together with Bob Twiggs, a professor at Stanford University, the...

What does a meteor sound like?

When a meteor screams through our upper atmosphere, it’s a silent show for us here on the ground. Most meteors burn up dozens of miles above the surface, and even if a sonic boom reaches us it comes minutes after the visual spectacle. However,...

These strange worlds are too hot to be planets, and too cool to be stars

Ultra-hot Jupiters are a new class of exoplanets that astronomers are increasingly finding scattered throughout the cosmos. These incredibly hot gas giants sit much closer to their host stars than Mercury does to the Sun, which invariably leads to ti...
Tuesday, August 7, 2018

First interplanetary CubeSat mission, MarCO, is only the beginning

When the InSight lander began its journey to Mars on May 5th, two tiny satellites tagged along for the ride — CubeSats called MarCO-A and MarCO-B. CubeSats are a small and relatively inexpensive type of spacecraft, and they tend to use off-the...

Party with the Perseids

Call your friends. It’s time once again for the annual Perseid meteor shower, typically the greatest shower of the year. This event occurs during the Northern Hemisphere summer, so even many people who don’t consider themselves astronomer...

Astronomers watch a dying star enjoy one last spark of life

Often when stars die, they go out with a bang in the form of a supernova, leaving a small, dim stellar corpse in the center of a gaseous nebula. But sometimes, these leftover stars can get a new spark of life. Astronomers used a telescope in the Can...
Friday, August 3, 2018

Why did it take us so long to send a mission to Pluto?

While many people know about the Voyager missions launched in the 1970s and the New Horizons probe that visited Pluto in 2015, few are aware that the relationship between these two missions dates back to the 1960s. Had scientific goals been different...

Astronomers discover a free-range planet with incredible magnetism

A bizarre rogue planet without a star is roaming the Milky Way just 20 light-years from the Sun. And according to a recently published study in The Astrophysical Journal, this strange, nomadic world has an incredibly powerful magnetic field that is ...

The sky this week for August 3 to 12

Friday, August 3 Although Jupiter reached opposition and peak visibility nearly three months ago, it remains a stunning sight from evening twilight until it sets around midnight local daylight time. Jupiter shines at magnitude –2.1 and dominat...
Thursday, August 2, 2018

Young star caught devouring its own planet for the very first time

Astronomers generally agree that planets form out of the massive disks of leftover debris that surround most newborn stars. As these disks of gas and dust orbit their stars, small clumps of material coalesce, ultimately growing larger and larger unti...

The mystery of crater rays may finally be coming to a close

Fiery chunks of rock are constantly bombarding the planetary bodies of our solar system, leaving behind long-lasting scars. These gouges, in the form of craters, can be used to learn about the history of our little nook in the vast universe, promptin...
Wednesday, August 1, 2018

No seriously, Elon. You can't just nuke Mars (we asked)

On Monday, a study published in Nature Astronomy took an exhaustive look at what it would take to terraform the Red Planet and fulfill generations of sci-fi dreams. In it, leading Mars experts tallied the planet’s stores of carbon dioxide, a p...

Fact checking the Galaxy Song – Monty Python’s astronomy lesson

Any nerd worth her NaCl knows all about English comedy group Monty Python, and their version of the King Arthur legend, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” But lesser known are the troupe’s other feature-length films, including 1983&...

UV light could be key to kick-starting life in the cosmos

Want to know if a planet has what it takes to develop life? Look at its light. Research published August 1 in the journal Science Advances suggests that the amount of ultraviolet (UV) light a planet soaks up from its host star could make or break it...
Tuesday, July 31, 2018

There’s Not Enough CO2 To Terraform Mars

Mars might not have the right ingredients to terraform into our planetary home away from home – even with the recent discovery of liquid water buried near its south pole. Research published Monday in Nature Astronomy puts a kibosh on the idea ...

X-ray light reveals the geometry of a black hole

Discovered in the early 1960s by rocket-borne X-ray detectors, Cygnus X-1 is a binary system containing a supergiant star and a stellar-mass black hole. That black hole is both accreting matter — pulling gas off its companion and funneling it i...
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