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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, June 26, 2019

Salt-loving bacteria's survival skills bode well for life on Mars

Mars’ surface is dry and dusty. But researchers know there’s water there. It’s locked up in the polar ice caps, and occasionally it probably seeps to the surface as liquid. And at night, the Red Planet’s plummeting temperature...

Astronomers peer at the glowing shrouds of gas around distant galaxies

Galaxies are not just the glowing stars and gas you see through a telescope. They are swaddled in a huge ball, or “halo,” of hydrogen that stretches vast distances into the empty space between them. These halos are usually challenging to ...

ALMA spots what may be the very first stages of planetary formation

Stars in the early stages of their lives are surrounded by flat disks of dust and gas, spinning slowly around them. Over time, this material clumps together to form planets, or eventually gets blown away by the stellar wind. This process can take mil...
Tuesday, June 25, 2019

History of Mars impacts leaves hope for ancient martian life

When the solar system was young, some scientists suspect it was too wild and raucous a place for life to develop. Earth, Mars, and the other planets were all being pelted by massive asteroids and rocky debris. Some of those rocks might have delivered...
Monday, June 24, 2019

Saydean Zeldin: Guiding Apollo’s engines

The Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) was a miracle of engineering. For its time, it was a masterpiece. The size of a suitcase when most computers took up entire rooms, the AGC performed tasks that were designed wholly from scratch and on which human li...

UPDATE: SpaceX’s third Falcon Heavy launches tonight

The third launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket is scheduled to blast off from Kennedy Space Center late tonight, June 24. Along for the ride will be 24 satellites and a slate of experiments, including new technology developed by NASA that wil...

Watch live as ISS astronauts return to Earth tonight

After 204 days orbiting Earth on the International Space Station, three astronauts will return to Earth tonight. June 24 marks the end of their mission as Anne McClain, Oleg Kononenko, and David Saint-Jacques undock from the ISS and eventually land i...

Curiosity detects methane spike on Mars again, but what does it mean?

This story was updated on June 25 to include new developments. Last week, NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover detected a sudden spike in methane levels, which kickstarted excitement about the prospects of life on the Red Planet. On Earth, the most co...
Friday, June 21, 2019

What did the Apollo astronauts leave behind?

Both the United States and the Soviet Union had something to prove during the 1960s. Throughout this time, the two rivals wanted to demonstrate the superiority of their political system and their military. Short of all-out war, however, what could th...

What the Apollo Moon rocks told us

Among the fruits of more than 80 hours the Apollo astronauts spent on the lunar surface were the treasures that came home. All told, the explorers carted back 842 pounds (382 kilograms) of Moon rocks, some 2,200 separate samples from six different lu...

Elaine Denniston: The woman who corrected Apollo's code

Away from the flurry of control rooms and high-end software engineering, there were many women working on computer programming for Apollo. In these early days of computer science, it took a village to create a single program, and few people worked on...

Hacking Apollo 14: How an MIT computer scientist saved a lunar landing

All of the Apollo missions placed NASA and the astronauts under extreme pressure to succeed, but Apollo 14 faced unusual challenges even before it launched in February 1971. Coming on the heels of the nearly disastrous Apollo 13 mission, NASA was eag...

NASA selects PUNCH, a new mission to study the Sun

The Sun powers life on Earth and keeps us from freezing to death. It also occasionally sends out bursts of charged particles that can be deadly to astronauts outside Earth’s sheltering atmosphere, and also wreak havoc on electronics both on and...

The Sky This Week from June 21 to 30

Friday, June 21 Earth’s summer solstice arrives at 11:54 a.m. EDT, when the Sun reaches its farthest point north in the sky. This marks the official beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and the day of the solstice has more hours of s...
Thursday, June 20, 2019

Astronomers discover a new stage of galaxy evolution — the ‘cold quasar’

Quasars are supermassive black holes actively gobbling material from the galaxy around them. While black holes are known for pulling material in, the turbulent swirl of that whirlpool often also flings material and radiation out at high energies, ena...

Record-breaking astronaut Peggy Whitson says it’s an exciting time for space exploration

Peggy Whitson’s career as an astronaut has been trailblazing: With a total of 665 days in space, Whitson not only currently holds the space endurance record in the U.S., she is eighth on that list overall. She was the first woman astronaut to h...

ESA plans mission to intercept a 'pristine' comet

The European Space Agency (ESA) has selected a new mission that aims to investigate a wholly pristine comet, or one that has never visited the Sun. Because these objects are hard to spot until they’re already close to the Sun, the idea is that...

The Event Horizon Telescope's possible next target? Blazars

The Event Horizon Telescope made history on April 10 when it captured the first image of a supermassive black hole’s event horizon at the heart of galaxy M87. While there’s only one other target close enough to image that way – the ...
Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Hubble Telescope's successor inches closer to launch

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is NASA’s long-planned – and long-delayed – successor to Hubble. But after a recent spate of testing to mimic the extremes of space, it’s looking like the telescope is still on track for i...

What to know before the next Falcon Heavy launch

The third launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket is scheduled to blast off from Kennedy Space Center late at night on June 24. Along for the ride will be 24 satellites and a slate of experiments, including new technology developed by NASA that ...
Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Scientists read the Sun’s history in Moon rocks

Stars, like humans, are more volatile when they’re young. As Sunlike stars mature past their first billion years, they all tend to slow in their rotation, eventually converging to roughly the same period we see now in our Sun: about 27 days for...
Monday, June 17, 2019

Vaporizing meteors are making clouds on Mars

No matter what planet you’re on, physics remains the same. For clouds, that means they follow a peculiar law – they form only around a seed of some sort, usually a fleck of dust or salt. On Earth, with its thick atmosphere and strong air ...

What's so special about our Moon, anyway?

This summer is really the summer of the Moon. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, many people are thinking about our past and future relationship with our celestial partner. It is the only object in space whose surface can b...

Astronomers find earliest example of merging galaxies

Thirteen billion years ago, two galaxies collided to make something totally new. Each of those galaxies was among the universe’s first, since the cosmic clock had only been ticking for less than a billion years. As the galaxies’ dust and ...
Friday, June 14, 2019

The Sky This Week from June 14 to 23

Friday, June 14 Look high in the northwest after darkness falls this week and you’ll be greeted by the familiar sight of the Big Dipper. The Dipper is the sky’s most conspicuous asterism — a recognizable pattern of stars that doesn&...

As the hunt drags on, physicists start searching for the lightest dark matter

Dark matter, the invisible material that so far shows itself only through the pull of its gravity, was first proposed nearly a century ago. It took another half-century to truly ignite the physics community. But at this point, a plethora of highly ad...

Scientists ask the public to help search for a rare breed of black hole

If you have a computer and a few spare moments, you can help search the cosmos for an elusive breed of black hole that astronomers once thought didn't exist. Black holes come in two main types: stellar mass black holes, which generally have about 10...

Light pollution from satellites will get worse. But how much?

SpaceX’s ambitious Starlink project could eventually launch more than 10,000 satellites into orbit and rewrite the future of the internet. But Elon Musk’s company has been taking heat from the astronomical community after an initial launc...
Thursday, June 13, 2019

Propellers, waves, and gaps: Cassini's last looks at Saturn's rings

Since Cassini plunged into Saturn’s atmosphere in 2017, ending its 13-year mission, scientists have continued to comb through the rich store of data it sent back, especially during its last year, when it dove closer to Saturn’s rings than...

NASA is retiring its legendary Spitzer Space Telescope

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope was launched in 2003 on a mission to spend five years exploring the cosmos in infrared light. That means it excels at capturing images and chemical signatures of warm objects, like the glow of gas in nebulae and g...

The Milky Way still bears scars from a collision with a ghostly galaxy

The Milky Way likely collided with the newfound dwarf galaxy Antlia 2 less than a billion years ago, according to new research presented Wednesday at the 234th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society. The research, spearheaded by Sukanya Chak...
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