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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.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The brightest, most distant pulsar has a complex and powerful magnetic field

The supermassive black holes found at the centers of galaxies are known for their extreme X-ray emission. This emission is associated with the massive hot disks of gas and debris that circle these monstrous black holes before it is consumed. Howeve...

This chart puts the moons of the solar system into perspective

Our moon is not the biggest moon in the solar system — not by a long shot. In fact, the Moon is only the fifth biggest satellite in our solar system, wedged right between Io and Europa in size. The real winners are Titan and Ganymede, both of w...

This group wants Pluto to be a planet again — and bring hundreds of objects along with it

In 2006, science text books were changed and the hearts of millions broken when the International Astronomical Union decided to give Pluto a new classification: dwarf planet. The logic was to make it fit more with a group of new large objects discove...
Friday, February 17, 2017

Scientists are months away from peering into black holes for the first time

The Event Horizon Telescope Array is almost certainly one of the most geographically widespread array telescopes ever “built”: spanning four continents, including Antarctica, the array taps into the potential of the Atacama Large Millimet...

Juno will remain in its current orbit around Jupiter

Alas, poor Juno’s polar orbit. We knew it. NASA’s Jupiter orbiter, which arrived at our largest planet in July, has been given new mission parameters: stay in its 53-day orbit instead of burning into a 14-day polar orbit. At perijove, th...
Thursday, February 16, 2017

How researchers use solar pressure to study our own star — and maybe reach interstellar space

Light can exert pressure, a fact the $100 million Breakthrough Starshot project aims to harness for interstellar journeys. Now researchers suggest that sunlight applies pressure on the Sun itself, which could help solve the longstanding mystery of wh...

NASA is enlisting the public to find Planet Nine

Last year, astronomers Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin shocked the astronomy community with the announcement of a possible ninth planet in our solar system. There was just one problem: they hadn’t seen it. Instead, it was inferred from the bi...

Scientists write a hypothetical Europa landing mission report

A recent report highlights the amazing possibilities for a Europa lander in the quest for life on other worlds. There are currently plans in process for a Europa flyby mission to launch in 2020, but a flyby can’t directly test for life. By bei...
Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Scientists narrow down list of landing sites for Mars 2020

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover is the next major interplanetary mission that will be sent to the Red Planet to look for signs of past habitability, martian life, and will collect samples to return to Earth. The rover is set to land in February 2021, bu...

High school students identify an ultra-rare star

The stars shining in the night sky might seem steady and reliable, but in truth, they are constantly changing and evolving. Out of the 100 billion or so stars that inhabit the Milky Way, a little more than 400,900 are classified as variable, meaning ...
Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How Islamic scholarship birthed modern astronomy

Astronomy may be the oldest natural science in the world. Before humans ever took to systematically studying the skies, we were craning our necks upwards, observing the curious movements of some bright points of light, and the stillness of others. Ci...

When Earth Became a ‘Mote of Dust’

We first glimpsed Earth’s curvature in 1946, via a repurposed German V-2 rocket that flew 65 miles above the surface. Year-by-year, we climbed a little higher, engineering a means to comprehend the magnitude of our home. In 1968, Apollo 8 luna...

How smartphones can help astronomers find FRBs

Your cell phone may be able to do more than make phone calls and search the Internet. Astronomers believe that a fast radio burst, or a very quick burst of radio emission, can be picked up by cell phones or small radio receivers. (A similar phenomen...

This planet briefly pulls its star into a cepheid variable stage

A planet 370 light years away gives its home star tiny little pulses to show it cares. The planet, HAT-P-2b, orbits an F-type star slightly larger than the Sun. At eight times the mass of Jupiter, the planet is fairly massive and orbits its star in ...
Monday, February 13, 2017

Astronomers catch a supernova just as its big boom begins

When massive stars (on the order of ten or more times the mass of our Sun) end their lives, they go out with a bang. In an instant, these stars send out a massive shock wave as type II supernovae, spreading the contents of their interiors — hyd...

A team of astronomers open dataset of nearby stars to the public

A team led by the Carnegie Institution for Science along with MIT has given the public a chance to assist with exoplanet research. The team has released two decades worth of data, a software package, and an online tutorial to the public to bring a f...

Another Hubble repair mission could be on the way

The Hubble Space Telescope, launched in 1990, has provided a wellspring of information about our universe over the last 27 years. Some of those discoveries required five upgrades to the system. And now, according to a Wall Street Journal report, the...
Friday, February 10, 2017

Why you might not see that comet in the sky

Who doesn’t love a good comet? Especially when it comes on the night of a penumbral eclipse with a near full moon. But about that … you probably won’t see it with the naked eye. Comet 45P will be at 7th magnitude, drowned out by t...
Thursday, February 9, 2017

Elusive blue lightning filmed dancing above a thunderstorm

In Earth’s upper atmosphere, blue jets, red sprites, pixies, halos, trolls and elves streak toward space, rarely caught in the act by human eyes. This mixed-bag of quasi-mythological terms are all names for transient luminous events, or, quite ...

Astronomers spot a giant Halley’s Comet-like object as it disappears into the atmosphere of a white dwarf

Infalling debris is pretty normal in white dwarf systems. Between 25 and 50 percent of white dwarfs show evidence of “pollution” from rocky bodies such as asteroids and even planets as they’re swallowed up by what remains of their s...
Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Astronomers find a new class of black holes

Some black holes are small. Some black holes are giant. But oddly enough, in the cosmic fight between innocent passing stars and voracious black holes, scientists have never found a mid-sized black hole. Until now. The star cluster 47 Tucanae, loca...

See Earth’s shadow on the Moon

Friday night, February 10, plan once again to get out your lawn chairs, binoculars, and low-power eyepieces. And considering the time of year, you better add some blankets. A penumbral lunar eclipse is on its way. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon...
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