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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.

Friday, June 24, 2016

NASA extends Hubble Space Telescope science operations contract

NASA will keep the Hubble Space Telescope on an additional five years. The agency awarded a sole source contract extension June 23 to the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy for continued Hubble science operations support at the Spa...
Thursday, June 23, 2016

Here's why Juno is taking a deep, dangerous dive into Jupiter's magnetic fields

A sturdy little spacecraft called Juno is about to fall into the tight grip of Jupiter, the biggest planet in the solar system, to begin a 20-month, 37-orbit mission. On the evening of July 4, Juno will fire its main engine for 35 minutes, placing it...

New dark spots appear on Neptune's cloud layers

It's not every day that a planet sprouts a new feature, but Hubble seems to have found a brand new "spot" on the blue ice giant Neptune. Neptune's "Great Dark Spot" discovered by the Voyager 2 spacecraft in 1989 revealed a storm battering around the ...

Qatar exoplanet project announces the discovery of three new exoplanets

The Qatar Exoplanet Survey announced the discovery of three new exoplanets in a paper accepted for publication at the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The three planets are called Qatar-3b, Qatar-4b, and Qatar-5b. All three are "ho...
Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Astronomers watched a black hole gobble a star in unprecedented detail

We can’t — yet — directly see black holes, making finding one of these elusive beasts hard, especially since a great majority of them are dormant. But researchers at the University of Maryland, NASA Goddard, and the University of Mi...

We now know a little about the stars that made gravitational wave black holes

Gravitational waves made big rumbles through the astronomy community earlier this year when it was revealed that these ripples in time-space itself had been detected. While we knew the source of the waves — the merger of two 30 solar mass black...

An ocean for Pluto and a thinner ice shell on Enceladus

Once, we thought earth was the only planet with oceans. But now, we're seemingly finding them everywhere in our solar system, including possibly the last place on anybody's mind: Pluto. New evidence published in Geophysical Research Letters shows tha...
Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Salts on Mars could pose unseen hazards to explorers

It’s a major component of solid rocket propellants. It allows water to exist as liquid on Mars, despite atmospheric pressure at the Martian surface being roughly 0.6 percent that on Earth. It also can be broken down to release oxygen that astro...

Electric winds turn Venus into even more of a hellscape

A new study from the European Space Agency suggests one culprit for why Venus remains a dry, hot hellscape: electric winds in the upper atmosphere zaps even the smallest hint of water vapor out of its skies. While Venus lies in the habitable zone of...

A never-before-seen magnetar nebula was just discovered

For the first time, a magnetar has been found with a wind nebula around it, adding on to the wild nature of these ultra-powerful stellar remnants. Magnetars are a type of pulsar that has an intense magnetic field around it, making these supernova rem...
Monday, June 20, 2016

A young super-Neptune offers clues to the origin of close-in exoplanets

A team of astronomers has confirmed the existence of a young planet, only 11 million years old that orbits close to its star — at 0.05 AU — with an orbital period of 5.4 days. Approximately 5 times the size of Earth, the new planet is a "...

Astrophysicists release new study of one of the first stars

No one has yet observed the first stars that formed in the Milky Way. In all likelihood, they will never be directly observed, because the first stars are massive, ending their lives only a few million years after their birth. But, astronomers can ...
Friday, June 17, 2016

A bevy of unexpected gas giants hide in a nearby star cluster

An international team of astronomers has found that there are far more “hot Jupiters” than expected in a cluster of stars called Messier 67 (M67). This surprising result was obtained using a number of telescopes and instruments, including...
Thursday, June 16, 2016

Small asteroid is Earth’s constant companion

A small asteroid has been discovered in an orbit around the Sun that keeps it as a constant companion of Earth, and it will remain so for centuries to come. As it orbits the Sun, this new asteroid, designated 2016 HO3, appears to circle around Earth...

A planet burning hotter than a small star is on a death spiral

A rare exoplanet around a fast-burning star may be too hot to handle, but it might not be around too long, anyway. The feverish gas giant reaches temperatures as high as a dim star as it travels around its young host every day-and-a-half as it slowly...
Wednesday, June 15, 2016

It may take 1500 years to meet E.T.

It is a timeless story seen in many science-fiction movies where aliens come to Earth in one of two forms; benevolent and helpful, or malevolent and destructive. The idea that the human race will meet our galactic neighbors soon is ingrained into th...

What do the stars look like from Mars?

The Mars-like deserts of the American Southwest are some of Earth’s most iconic stargazing grounds. Far from pestering city lights and free from regular cloud cover, they provide a starry-skied sanctuary for lovers of the night. So, it would st...

Could dark matter really be first generation black holes?

Alexander Kashlinsky of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has an idea. It’s a bit of a gamble. But if it’s true, it could be the solution to one of the biggest mysteries of the cosmos: dark matter. For decades, mass estimates of t...

LIGO Detects a Second Set of Gravitational Waves

Chad Hanna was enjoying a quiet Christmas night with family in rural western Pennsylvania when he got the text message. He sprang for his phone, surprising his in-laws. Then he grabbed his laptop and flew up the stairs to an empty bedroom. The cosmos...

Planet-devouring star reveals possible limestone crumbs

A group of researchers using the W. M. Keck Observatory has discovered a planet-like body that may have been encrusted in limestone, its surface layers being slowly devoured by its deceased host star. In addition to extending a relatively new method...
Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Substellar brown dwarfs can still pack a star-like punch

Although astronomers often refer to brown dwarfs as "failed stars," scientists at the University of Delaware have discovered that at least one of these dim celestial objects can emit powerful flashes of light. A research team led by John Gizis, prof...

Smaller stars may not be the best parents for would-be planets

Young stars much less massive than the Sun can unleash a torrent of X-ray radiation that can significantly shorten the lifetime of planet-forming disks surrounding these stars. This result comes from a new study of a group of nearby stars using data ...

These Experiments Are Building the Case to Terraform Mars

Whether it’s extreme climate change, an impending asteroid impact, scientific curiosity or even space tourism, there are compelling reasons to think about calling Mars our second home. But before expanding humanity’s cosmic real estate ho...

Astronomers find first evidence of chiral chemistry in distant cosmic cloud

To make life, our bodies require many chemicals to have a certain “handedness,” a left or right orientation called chirality that determines the behavior of those substances in our bodies. The requirement is the molecular equivalent of wh...
Monday, June 13, 2016

Newly discovered "Tatooine" is the largest ever found

With two stars at its center, the newest exoplanet Kepler-1647b, has two suns like Tatooine, the fictional home of Luke Skywalker from Star Wars. This isn’t the first exoplanet found to orbit two stars, but is now the largest found to date. In ...

Ancient volcanos on Mars burned very, very hot

Mars' past may have seen a lot of very high-temperature volcanism. Similar to the Mount Helen’s eruption of 1980, Mars’ volcanoes would have an abundance of high-temperature and high-silica magma that erupted and then formed newly discove...

One-Third of Humanity Can't See the Milky Way

The Milky Way, the brilliant river of stars that has dominated the night sky and human imaginations since time immemorial, is but a faded memory to one-third of humanity and 80 percent of Americans, according to a new global atlas of light pollution ...
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