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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.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Infinity and Beyond: Episode 2 — Exoplanets

Until just a few decades ago, scientists weren't sure whether our Sun was the only star to host planets. Today, we know for certain it's not. Thousands of planets outside our solar system have been found, from huge gas giants sizzling close to their ...

The Sky This Week: Catch a July 4 lunar eclipse

Friday, July 3 The Summer Triangle asterism is on full display tonight, already high above the horizon by the time darkness falls. This famous, easy-to-find group of three stars consists of Vega in Lyra, Altair in Aquila, and Deneb in Cygnus. An hour...

Thorne-Żytkow objects: When a supergiant star swallows a dead star

Nearly half a century ago, physicist Kip Thorne (now a Nobel laureate) and astronomer Anna Żytkow suggested a strange, Russian-nesting-doll-type star might be hiding in the cosmos, just waiting to be found by those who knew how to seek it. Astronomer...
Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Ingenuity: A man's decades-long quest to fly a helicopter on Mars

When America first dreamed of sending astronauts to another world, German-American rocket engineer Wernher von Braun didn’t want to go to the Moon. He wanted to send dozens of people to Mars. He envisioned a winged craft soaring through the Red...

How we can explore the cosmos by letting it come to us

Let's face it, we're not going anywhere, at least not anytime soon. Anyone who grew up on a diet of science fiction—often Star Trek or Star Wars of one generation or another—has at some point felt the longing for actual, real-world inters...
Monday, June 29, 2020

The Sun’s sizzling corona is so hot thanks to tiny nanoflares, new evidence suggests

Within Earth’s atmosphere, temperatures drop with increasing altitude. On the Sun however, the reverse occurs: its outermost layer, the corona, is nearly 500 times hotter than the underlying layer, the photosphere. To explain this cosmic conund...

Up close and personal: 10 years in the life of the Sun

If you're feeling like you could use something new and different to watch to take your mind off the state of the world, consider the Sun. NASA has released a video, embedded below, that shows it in a way you probably have never seen, and maybe never...
Friday, June 26, 2020

The Sky This Week from June 26 to July 3

Friday, June 26 The Boötid meteor shower is currently active, peaking overnight tonight and into tomorrow morning. However, this shower is variable and produces significant numbers of meteors only rarely. For observers at midlatitudes in the U.S...

Techno-turkey: Remembering Hubble’s vision troubles, 30 years on

When the Hubble Space Telescope rose from Earth in April 1990, it was lauded as the eighth wonder of the world. As the most capable observatory ever built, it had grand plans to be a new window to the cosmos. It would unveil the universe with a clari...
Thursday, June 25, 2020

If we find life on Mars, what might it be like?

For almost as long as humans have dreamed of other worlds, they’ve ruminated on the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Almost 2,500 years ago, Metrodorus of Chios wrote, “It is unnatural in a large field to have only one shaft of wheat...
Wednesday, June 24, 2020

All black holes should sport light rings

When the black hole Gargantuan first appeared onscreen in the 2014 blockbuster “Interstellar,” nobody had seen a black hole yet. Without a real-life image for reference, the visual effects artists who worked on the movie collaborated with...
Tuesday, June 23, 2020

A look back on Spitzer's legacy

On January 30, NASA turned out the lights on the Spitzer Space Telescope. The infrared-sensitive observatory had far exceeded initial expectations. When the spacecraft blasted off from Florida in August 2003, scientists hoped the mission would last a...

Pluto has likely maintained an underground liquid ocean for billions of years

When early Earth was still a molten mass with a surface swimming in liquid magma, Pluto and its underground ocean were just forming. And for the billions of years since, liquid plutonian water has remained in the distant solar system, providing a pot...
Monday, June 22, 2020

How many extraterrestrial civilizations could be trying to communicate with us right now?

The Copernican principle is the idea that Earth does not sit at the center of universe or is otherwise special in any way. When Nicolaus Copernicus first stated it in the 16th century, it led to an entirely new way to think about our planet. Since t...

Enjoy the sky's great globulars

As I sat down to write this story, I quickly realized that my problem wasn’t with where to begin, but where to end. If you’re new to the hobby, you may think all globular clusters look the same. Not so. As I hope you’ll realize by v...
Saturday, June 20, 2020

Nabta Playa: The world's first astronomical site was built in Africa and is older than Stonehenge

For thousands of years, ancient societies all around the world erected massive stone circles, aligning them with the Sun and stars to mark the seasons. These early calendars foretold the coming of spring, summer, fall, and winter, helping civilizatio...
Friday, June 19, 2020

The Sky This Week from June 19 to 26

Friday, June 19 If you happened to be up early this morning, you may have seen the Moon and Venus close to each other in the sky. The Moon passed 0.7° north of Venus at 5 A.M. EDT. Prior to that, the Moon also occulted Venus for some regions of t...

An unprecedented look at the atmosphere of the supergiant star Antares

Sparkling near the heart of the constellation Scorpius lies ruby-red Antares, the 15th-brightest star in the night sky. Like its bloated cousin Betelgeuse, Antares is a red supergiant nearing the end of its life. These enormous yet relatively cold st...
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