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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.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Astronomers may have finally connected supernovae and gamma ray bursts

The link between gamma ray bursts (GRBs) and supernovae has been a confusing one. GRBs are highly energetic jets that blast from massive star explosions, but not all powerful supernovae produce them. Their sporadic nature has puzzled scientists for d...

Methane rain falls on Titan's north pole from cloudless skies

NASA’s Cassini orbiter captured the north pole on Saturn’s largest moon looking like a wet sidewalk after a bit of rain. This rainfall, which scientists take to signify a change in season on the moon, brought summer to Titan’s north...
Friday, January 18, 2019

The Sky This Week from January 18 to January 27

Friday, January 18 For those who recently caught the observing bug, the so-called Summer Triangle must seem like a huge misnomer. That’s because this asterism remains on view after darkness falls in January. Look for Vega, the fifth-brightest s...

Hot Jupiters may form close to their stars

Today, astronomers have numerous extrasolar systems to study, but most look very different from our own. Determining how these solar systems — and ours — formed is challenging. New research presented at the 233rd Meeting of the American A...

The plants that China sprouted on the Moon have died

Dead plants Earlier this month, an experiment on China’s Chang’e 4 lander got cotton plants to sprout on the Moon, a historic first. Well, they’re already dead. On Jan. 7, China’s space agency released pictures of cotton seeds...

Ancient lunar craters reveal Earth’s own impact history

Lunar Impact Craters By studying the scars left from long-gone, violent lunar impacts, scientists have revealed new details about the history of impacts on Earth. Because the Moon is so close to the Earth, it’s thought that impacts there corre...

Get outside and see this weekend's total lunar eclipse

A total eclipse of the Moon will be visible in its entirety across North and South America this weekend. For more than an hour the night of January 20/21, the colors from all Earth’s sunrises and sunsets bathe the Full Moon in an ethereal orang...
Thursday, January 17, 2019

Saturn's rings are surprisingly young

Exploring Saturn’s rings During NASA’s Cassini spacecraft’s Grand Finale, the craft dove between the planet and its rings. In doing so, it collected new insights into the ringed planet, including the surprising age of Saturn’s...
Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Our solar system's formation was a lot messier than you think

When most of us learn about the solar system, it seems like a pretty well-ordered place. Our Sun formed first, about five billion years ago, and the planets appeared a little later. As a very general trend, these planets grew larger and less dense th...
Tuesday, January 15, 2019

To track greenhouse gases, this nonprofit wants to launch its own satellite

EDF’s MethaneSAT The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has granted two companies $1.5 million in contracts to design a privately-funded satellite that will track methane emissions around the globe. EDF announced Jan 10 that the companies will compete ...

Chang'e 4 sends another trove of images from the Moon's far side

Success for Chang’e 4 The far side of the moon is finally coming into focus. China’s Chang’e 4 mission became the first to land on the far side of the Moon earlier this month, and it sent back an initial, though blurry, picture. Now...

Tonight, asteroid Eros will make its closest approach to Earth until 2056

Near-Earth asteroid 433 Eros makes its closest approach to Earth since 2012 today, when it comes within 19.4 million miles (31.2 million kilometers) of our planet. Throughout the week, asteroid Eros glows at 9th magnitude, making it bright enough t...

Plants have been grown on the Moon for the very first time

Lunar plants There’s life on the Moon! Plant life, that is. Cotton seeds have reportedly just sprouted in an experiment aboard China’s Chang’e 4 Moon lander. The mission became the first to touch down on the surface of the far side ...
Monday, January 14, 2019

A third of all galaxy clusters have gone unnoticed until now

Hidden clusters The universe is far from homogenous. Rather, stars, and the galaxies that contain them, clump together in some places, brought together by their shared gravitational attraction. Astronomers have historically found clusters of galaxies...

This Russian startup wants to put billboards in space. Astronomers aren’t impressed

Imagine this: you’ve just fled from the city to your nearest national park to gaze deeply into the infinite abyss of space and contemplate how your own existence fits into the curtain of the universe. Then, out of the corner of your eye, you se...
Friday, January 11, 2019

The Sky This Week from January 11 to January 20

Friday, January 11 Although Comet 46P/Wirtanen appeared brightest in mid-December, it currently glows at 6th magnitude and shows up nicely through binoculars or a telescope. This periodic visitor lies among the background stars of western Ursa Major,...

Hunt the Lion Cub tonight

Have you ever seen the constellation Leo Minor the Lion Cub? If you answered, “No,” tonight could be your night. To seek out the small and faint constellation, head out around midnight local time. But don’t try before that because ...

Hubble takes second-most detailed image ever

Hubble just released its second-largest image ever: the Triangulum Galaxy, and it’s a stunner. While Andromeda has been holding the top spot since being imaged back in 2015, this zoomable, roughly 665 million-pixel composite is nothing to sneez...
Thursday, January 10, 2019

In a first, astronomers witness the birth of black hole or neutron star

Some 200 million years ago, not long after dinosaurs first appeared on Earth, a star collapsed in a nearby galaxy. The star’s collapse triggered an ultra-bright explosion that sent radiation racing across the cosmos. The light finally reached e...

Astronomers clock a black hole spinning at half the speed of light

Black holes are massive beasts that annihilate anything that dares to cross them. We don’t know a whole lot about these invisible, terrifying bodies, but astronomers have found a new way to study their mysterious behavior. By observing the X-r...

SpaceX's Crew Dragon might launch next month

Crew Dragon Launch In just about a month, SpaceX’s first Crew Dragon spacecraft might launch for the first time on an uncrewed orbital test flight to the International Space Station, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk stated on Jan 5 on Twitter. Previously, ...

Conditions for life might exist on new planet discovered around Barnard's star

Late last year, astronomers announced that they’d found a super-Earth around Barnard’s star – one of the closest suns to our own. The discovery of a planet just six light-years away was enough to excite astronomers and the public al...

TESS discovers a dense sub-Neptune exoplanet, plus an Earth-sized world to boot

Within just a few months of beginning its primary science mission, NASA's planet-hunting Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) already has identified over 50 exoplanet candidates. Now, TESS has discovered and confirmed one of the densest sub-N...
Wednesday, January 09, 2019

SpaceX's Starship prototype could make first test flight in just weeks

Testing the Starship SpaceX is on the verge of launching a prototype of the spacecraft that could one day carry humans to the Moon and Mars. Over the weekend, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shared on Twitter on Saturday morning (Jan 5) that the flight-test ver...

Stars like our Sun turn into crystals late in life

Stars like our sun can turn into crystals in the final stages of their lives, bringing a whole new meaning to those glittering jewels in the sky. Astronomers from the University of Warwick say they’ve found the first direct evidence that white ...

Repeating fast radio burst detected for second time in history

Repeating FRB For just the second time, scientists have recorded the repeat of a mysterious cosmic flash know as a fast radio burst (FRB). This remarkable observation could help scientists to better understand this phenomenon and where these bursts o...
Tuesday, January 08, 2019

These exoplanets are forever half dark and shrouded in clouds

Cloudy hot Jupiters “Hot Jupiters” exoplanets that resemble our own Jupiter, except for being, well, hot, have another side to them. We mean this literally: The planets usually don’t rotate, so one side is always facing their star, ...

Even in space, microbes continue to evolve

Space station microbes Genetic mutations are life’s ace in the hole. When confronted with challenging environments, species will adapt over time, incorporating beneficial genetic alterations into their DNA to grow new and useful traits. It&rsqu...
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