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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, September 21, 2018

The sky this week for September 21 to 30

Friday, September 21 Venus peaks at magnitude –4.8 this evening, shining brighter than at any other time during this evening apparition. (The difference is essentially imperceptible, however — it appears only a thousandth of a magnitude ...

Venus reaches peak brightness tonight

Venus peaks at magnitude –4.8 this evening, shining brighter than at any other time during this evening apparition. However, the difference is essentially imperceptible — it appears only a thousandth of a magnitude brighter today than it...
Thursday, September 20, 2018

What's going on around this strange neutron star?

Neutron stars, the end-stage remnants of massive stars, are high-energy objects. They’re usually studied in X-rays, some of the most energetic light in the universe. Neutron stars also give off radio emissions, most famously as pulsars. But now...

What's the maximum gravity we could survive?

If we wish to colonize another world, finding a planet with a gravitational field that humans can survive and thrive under will be crucial. If its gravity is too strong our blood will be pulled down into our legs, our bones might break, and we could ...

See Saturn's moons reach beyond the rings

Saturn and its rings always look wonderful when viewed through a telescope, but this evening provides a great opportunity to target the planet’s moons through an 8-inch or larger instrument. Two inner moons — 12th-magnitude Enceladus a...
Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Unlocking the secrets of the Crab Nebula

In late spring in the year 1054, a strange light appeared in the sky in what we would now call the constellation Taurus the Bull. It was a new star, where no star had been before. It grew quickly brighter, until by July it outshone everything except ...

Milky Way nearly collided with a smaller galaxy in cosmic fender bender

Our Milky Way galaxy holds hundreds of billions of stars. Many of those suns were formed locally from clouds of gas — at the rate of handful every year —over billions of years. But our home galaxy gets stars another way, too. It steals th...

Stars, galaxies, and more: TESS explores the southern sky

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) launched April 18, headed for an orbit that takes it out to about the distance of the Moon at its apogee. Just a few weeks later, it began science operations and a list of 50 exoplanet candida...

Researchers develop a robotic skin with NASA astronauts in mind

via GIPHY Every single episode of MacGyver would have been ruined had he gotten his hands on a few patches of a new robotic skin developed by researchers at Yale University. A diversion to distract cartel enforcers? Wrap a stick of dynamite in robo...

Soak in the dog days of the Summer Triangle

Although autumn arrives with the equinox this coming weekend, the famed Summer Triangle — a skywatcher warm weather favorite — remains prominent in the evening sky. Look high in the west after darkness falls and your eyes will fall on th...
Tuesday, September 18, 2018

NASA launches cutting-edge spacecraft to monitor our planet in 3D

Since 2003, NASA has been monitoring the height of Earth’s ice with lasers. This undertaking began with a satellite — the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) — which ran through 2009. Operation IceBridge has used plane...

First earthlings around the Moon were two Soviet tortoises

Anders. Borman. Lovell. The names of the first three humans to journey around the Moon will echo throughout eternity. But these brave Apollo 8 astronauts were actually not the first earthlings to complete the voyage. Two tortoises beat NASA to the Mo...

Are brown dwarfs stars, planets or neither?

The universe is filled with billions of massive celestial objects, from stars to planets to comets to asteroids. But what happens when lines start to blur between these classifications, and we just can’t place an object in any major category? ...

Asteroid Vesta resides near the Lagoon Nebula tonight

Asteroid hunters have a great opportunity to spot Vesta in the vicinity of one of the Milky Way’s brightest star-forming regions this week.The 7th-magnitude minor planet resides in western Sagittarius, a region currently hosting the major plane...
Monday, September 17, 2018

Volcanoes of mud erupt from dwarf planet Ceres

Nothing is normal on Ceres — least of all its mud volcanoes. In new research published in Nature Astronomy, a large team of astronomers has laid out a new view of the weirdest world in our solar system. It seems that Ceres has had a busy last ...

NASA targets next-gen nuclear reactors for spacecraft, space colonies

The future of space exploration may rest in the hands of a group of Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers. They’ve built the first of a new generation of small nuclear reactors intended to power missions to deep space and even future astro...

The Milky Way’s stars travel far from their birthplaces

Mapping our galaxy’s formation and evolution would be pretty easy if stars just stayed in their birthplaces, but unfortunately that’s not the case. The Milky Way’s vast pool of stars is constantly expanding outward, getting knocked ...
Friday, September 14, 2018

The sky this week for September 14 to 23

Friday, September 14 Although Jupiter reached opposition and peak visibility in early May, it remains a conspicuous object from evening twilight until it sets around 9:30 p.m. local daylight time. Jupiter shines at magnitude –1.9 and dominates...

TESS begins the hunt for rocky worlds

In just six weeks of science observations, NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has already found 50 possible new worlds for scientists to examine. TESS finds planets by watching the dip in light as a planet passes in front of its pa...

Is time running out for Opportunity?

Since June 10, the 14-year-old Opportunity rover has been silent, presumably sleeping as thick dust clouds blocked the Sun from its solar cells. But now, that sky is clearing, and NASA is implementing a listening plan for the rover through January 20...

Four bright planets arc across the southern sky tonight

Although Jupiter reached opposition and peak visibility in early May, it remains a conspicuous object from evening twilight until it sets around 9:30 p.m. local daylight time. Jupiter shines at magnitude –1.9 and dominates the southwestern sk...

5 times Einstein was wrong

Recent months have featured a few stories about how Albert Einstein’s theories, or the ideas underpinning them, have all been confirmed to a new degree of accuracy. That’s usually the case: Scientists try to disprove Einstein, and Einstei...
Thursday, September 13, 2018

Water worlds in the Milky Way

When it comes to exoplanets, the search for water is paramount, thanks to its vital role in the evolution of life as we know it. However, finding the life-giving liquid on other worlds is an ongoing challenge. For nearly a decade, scientists have pr...

The Moon and Jupiter journey together at twilight

The Moon moves eastward relative to the background stars at an average rate of about 13° per day. This motion carries it to a position 4° to Jupiter’s upper right this evening. The pretty pair will be on display from twilight until Jup...

Nazis and dead dogs: Spaceflight before the space race

In October 1957, a basketball-sized metallic sphere began circling Earth, transmitting a beacon from above. For many, the launch of Sputnik 1 heralded in the Space Age. But lost often in the story of Sputnik, the Space Age, and the space race is tha...

Thousands of black holes form disks in the centers of galaxies

At the center of most galaxies lie supermassive black holes. Their exceptional gravity pulls in thousands of stars and stellar mass black holes, or black holes formed when a massive star collapses due to gravity. By simulating how objects interact n...
Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Exploring Jupiter's Trojan Asteroids

Jupiter is by far the largest and most massive planet in the solar system. And befitting a world named for the Roman king of the gods, Jupiter has an impressive entourage. It includes a set of faint and dusty rings, 67 known or suspected moons, and t...

Scientists draw up plan to colonize Mars

The idea of building a base to colonize Mars and become an interplanetary species has seen decades of talk and not a whole lot of action, but now at least there’s plan. On September 10, researchers from the École polytechnique fé...

View Venus as it moves through Virgo

Venus dominates the twilight sky after sunset on Wednesday. The dazzling object shines at magnitude –4.7 among the background stars of southern Virgo. The planet stands 8° high 30 minutes after sundown and sets shortly after 8:30 p.m. loca...
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Pigeon poop and strange static: How we proved the Big Bang

Sometimes scientific discoveries are made in world-class laboratories, when brilliant scientists come together to prove a wonderful idea true with fresh experiments. And sometimes, the secrets of the universe are hidden under a pile of pigeon poop. ...

Origin of radioactive space material finally identified

Over 2,500 years ago, two small stars collided. The collision produced an outburst called a red nova, which then slowly cooled, producing molecular gas and dust. By the time the light from the nova reached Earth in 1670, astronomers were already keen...

AI detects 72 fast radio bursts from a distant, unknown source

Blazing across the sky for mere milliseconds, fast radio bursts (FRBs) are among the newest and most puzzling astronomical phenomena. They come from extreme distances and appear without any known rhyme or reason, making them almost impossible to stud...

Trojan asteroids reveal evidence of early skirmish between gas giants

Much like the famed Trojan horse, Jupiter's Trojan asteroids are hiding a secret. According to a new study published in the journal Nature Astronomy, the existence of a bound pair of "Trojan asteroids" trapped in a stable orbit near Jupiter suggests...
Monday, September 10, 2018

Catch a glimpse of the elusive zodiacal light

New Moon occurs at 2:01 p.m. EDT Monday. At its New phase, the Moon crosses the sky with the Sun and so remains hidden in our star’s glare. Although you can’t see the New Moon, its absence from the morning sky these next two weeks provide...
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