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News

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.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Can humans live in space without going crazy?

On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard became the first American in space when he piloted the Mercury capsule Freedom 7. His sub-orbital journey lasted 15 minutes. Like most children who grew up in the early era of space flight, I remember this moment well. T...

Multiple “mini-moons” could be orbiting Earth

Think that the Moon is the only object orbiting Earth? You might want to think again. Researchers have theorized the existence of “mini-moons” — tiny asteroids pulled into Earth’s orbit by forces of gravity — ever since...
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 09, 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 08, 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 07, 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 03, 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 02, 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...
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