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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.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo just made its second trip to space

On Friday, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo flew in space for the second time, taking off from Mojave, California, after days of weather delay. SpaceShipTwo took off at 8:07 a.m. PST carrying two pilots, a crewmember, and a nearly full weight of ...

The Sky This Week from February 22 to March 3

Friday, February 22 One of the sky’s most familiar constellations rules February’s sky from dusk until after midnight local time. Orion the Hunter appears at its highest in the south just as evening twilight fades to darkness, when it sta...

NASA selects 12 science experiments it wants to send to the Moon this year

Following on the heels of its announcement to return to the moon this year, NASA announced Thursday the first batch of science projects and technology demonstrations they want to send skyward in 2019, assuming their commercial partners can launch on ...

Exclusive: New Horizons' mission head on new discoveries at Ultima Thule

Spending your New Year’s Eve at work doesn’t sound like much fun, I guess. Unless it involves the farthest exploration of worlds in history, a midnight countdown led by Queen rock star Brian May, more than 1,000 friends and colleagues alo...
Thursday, February 21, 2019

Earthquake-detecting balloons may shed light on the interior of Venus

Venus is a hellish environment. With a bone-dry, reddish-brown surface marred by thousands of volcanoes and covered in ancient lava flows, it’s not a place you want to spend your time. And sure, the planet has occasional rain showers, but they ...

SpaceX just launched Israel's lunar lander to the Moon

The Israeli spacecraft Beresheet launched yesterday evening on a trip to the Moon, where it hopes to touch down in two months. This will be the first attempt at a lunar landing by a private company, and it’s also the first launch of an Israeli ...

Japan's Hayabusa2 shot an asteroid last night

Far from Earth, a tiny spacecraft punched an asteroid last night. Hayabusa2 swooped close to Ryugu today to collect asteroid dust. The JAXA spacecraft had spent the previous day leaving its usual orbit around the asteroid to zoom in close. After jus...

The human body might survive a mission to Mars better than our minds

Scientists are still trying to figure out how the human body responds to long-duration spaceflight. It’s an important and open research question as NASA moves toward more deep space missions. In particular, a mission to Mars could require at le...
Wednesday, February 20, 2019

This star in Andromeda has exploded every year for millions of years

Astronomers have discovered a star in the Andromeda galaxy that has been regularly erupting for the past million years, leaving behind one of the biggest shells of ejected material scientists have ever seen. The new research, which was published la...

Meet Neptune's new moon, Hippocamp

Neptune has a new moon, and it’s also the gas giant’s smallest to date — only a little over 20 miles across. The brand new satellite is called Hippocamp. Astronomers led by Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute discovered it using th...
Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The case for protecting the Apollo landing areas as heritage sites

Why did the hominin cross the plain? We may never know. But anthropologists are pretty sure that a smattering of bare footprints preserved in volcanic ash in Laetoli, Tanzania bear witness to an evolutionary milestone. These small steps, taken roughl...
Monday, February 18, 2019

The truth behind the supermoon

Our culture has given us lots of terms for outstanding items, events, or people. But many of them contain one prefix that suggests the biggest or the best: super. Super Glue. Supernova. Super Bowl. Superman. Even the word that groups these expression...

This supermassive black hole sends jets ricocheting through its galaxy

Supermassive black holes lurk in the hearts of every large galaxy. Some blast out jets that can spill into its host galaxy or even beyond. The energy carried by the jets is deposited in the surrounding material, playing a crucial role in the evolutio...

A philosopher asked physicists: ‘What is a black hole?’

Ask a dozen physicists what a black hole is, and you may get a dozen different answers – at least if those physicists are from different sub-fields. But new philosophy research suggests that may be okay, and may even lead to more interesting fi...

Japan's Hayabusa 2 mission will mine an asteroid this week

The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa 2 is ready to touch down on asteroid Ryugu and should do so later this week. On Monday morning, Japanese officials confirmed that the spacecraft will attempt to land at 6 p.m. EST on Thursday, Feb. 21. The spacecraft ...

An asteroid will briefly blot out the sky's brightest star tonight

Tonight is a fantastic night to hunt for Sirius in the evening sky. The night sky’s brightest star (at magnitude –1.5) appears due south and at its highest position around 9 p.m. local time tonight. It then lies about one-third of the w...
Friday, February 15, 2019

NASA wants to return to the Moon as early as this year

On February 14, NASA met with representatives from the space industry to discuss plans to return to the Moon within the next few years – and to place humans back on the lunar surface within the next decade. In November, NASA tapped nine privat...

Celebrate Galileo's 455th birthday by walking in his footsteps

It isn’t hard to find the influence of Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) on the history of astronomy. After all, he was the first to use a telescope to study the heavens systematically and objectively. He discovered the Moon’s craggy moun...

The Sky This Week from February 15 to 24

Friday, February 15 Mercury returns to the evening sky in mid-February. Tonight, it appears 5° high in the west-southwest 30 minutes after sunset. It shines at magnitude –1.1, bright enough to show up against the twilight glow. (If you don&...

Mercury is quickly approaching its finest appearance of 2019

Mercury returns to the evening sky in mid-February. Tonight, it appears 5° high in the west-southwest 30 minutes after sunset. The planet shines at magnitude –1.1, bright enough to show up against the twilight glow. (If you don’t se...
Thursday, February 14, 2019

Astronomers find the first evidence of a giant collision between exoplanets

For the first time ever, astronomers think they've discovered an exoplanet that survived a catastrophic collision with another planet. And according to the new research, which was published February 4 in the journal Nature Astronomy, the evidence for...
Wednesday, February 13, 2019

NASA declares 'mission complete' for Opportunity rover

On January 24, 2004, the Opportunity rover sent back its first signal from the Red Planet. That marked the start of a 90-day planned mission for the six-wheeled, golf cart-sized rover. Fifteen years later, the rover’s mission has finally ended,...

We’ll need a whole new landing approach to put humans On Mars

As humans get more ambitious with their plans for exploring Mars, we’re going to need to land bigger spacecraft on its surface. Up until now, NASA’s robotic missions have used parachutes, inflatable bubbles, and sky cranes, as well as des...

NASA to speak today on the fate of Mars Opportunity Rover

NASA will hold a briefing at 2pm EST today on the status of its Mars Opportunity Rover, which has been out of communication since June 10, 2018, when dust storms enveloped the planet. Mission scientists have been trying to rouse the rover since dust...

NASA's Opportunity rover is dead. We asked NASA scientists to write eulogies for the robot

After some 15 prolific years on the Martian surface, NASA’s Mars Opportunity rover has gone silent. And after an all out effort to re-establish contact, the space agency says it’s given up hopes of ever hearing back from the rover. We tal...

There's a second impact crater under Greenland

Last November, scientists’ minds were blown by the discovery of a 19-mile-wide (30 kilometers) crater under Greenland. The crater had been hiding in plain sight just 150 miles (240 km) from a major air force base. Scientists flying airborne sur...

The greatest discoveries from NASA’s Mars Opportunity Rover

The Opportunity rover, like its twin Spirit, was designed for an original mission of just three months. When engineers lost contact on June 10 of last year, it had been exploring for fourteen years. And today, mission scientists finally declared an o...
Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Scientists finally confirm a big theory about solar system formation

Planets, stars, and black holes all grow by consuming material from a spinning disk. While these disks may differ in size, they’re all mostly dependent on the mighty force of gravity, which keeps them spinning around the central mass. Gravity l...
Monday, February 11, 2019

Astronomers might soon get more glimpses into the early universe

For decades, scientists have been on the hunt for brilliant galaxies in the distant universe. These quasars were first noticed for being spectacularly bright – some of the most energetic objects ever discovered. But astronomers think many of th...

A radioactive metal may stifle the formation of water worlds

While we tend to think that Earth’s oceans make it a watery planet, it’s actually only a tiny fraction of a percent of water by mass. Looking out into the universe, it’s clear water is more common than our own planet implies. Some e...

The International Space Station’s new 3-D printer recycles old plastic into custom tools

Last week, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft departed the International Space Station (ISS), having delivered a batch of new experiments and cargo. Among them was the Refabricator, a new machine that will not only make objects on demand for ...
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