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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, May 27, 2016

A planet 1,200 light-years away is a good prospect for a habitable world

A distant planet known as Kepler-62f could be habitable, a team of astronomers reports. The planet, which is about 1,200 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Lyra, is approximately 40 percent larger than Earth. At that size, ...

NASA’s Juno spacecraft crosses Jupiter/Sun gravitational boundary

Since its launch five years ago, there have been three forces tugging at NASA's Juno spacecraft as it speeds through the solar system. The Sun, Earth, and Jupiter have all been influential — a gravitational trifecta of sorts. At times, Earth wa...
Thursday, May 26, 2016

Mars Is Emerging From an Ice Age

New observations suggest that Mars has very periodic ice ages showing that the polar ice caps grow and shrink as the planet warms or cools similar to Earth. In a new article in Science, Isaac Smith and his colleagues were able to determine that the ...

Number of habitable planets could be limited by stifling atmospheres

New research from Imperial College London and the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton say that fewer than predicted planets may be capable of harboring life because their atmospheres keep them too hot. When looking for planets that could ha...

Close encounters of a tidal kind could lead to cracks on icy moons

A new model developed by University of Rochester researchers could offer a new explanation as to how cracks on icy moons, such as Pluto's Charon, formed. Until now, it was thought that the cracks were the result of geodynamical processes, such as p...
Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Spirit in memoriam

Five years ago today, NASA officially ceased recovery efforts for the Spirit rover. They didn’t give up without a fight. The rover had been silent since March of 2010, more than a year earlier, and stationary since 2009, when it drove into a pa...

Supermassive black holes cause galactic-scale warming

For most of their lives, galaxies are lush environments for turning gas into stars. Until they aren’t. Over the last few billion years, a mysterious kind of “galactic warming” has turned huge numbers of galaxies into deserts devoid...

Footprints of baby planets found in a gas disk

A new analysis of the ALMA data for a young star HL Tauri provides yet more firm evidence of baby planets around the star. Researchers uncovered two gaps in the gas disk around HL Tauri. The locations of these gaps in the gas match the locations of g...
Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Astronomers discover fresh lunar craters

A Southwest Research Institute-led (SwRI) team of scientists discovered two geologically young craters — one 16 million, the other between 75 and 420 million, years old — in the Moon’s darkest regions. “These ‘young&rsq...

NASA telescopes find clues for how giant black holes formed so quickly

Using data from NASA’s Great Observatories, astronomers have found the best evidence yet for cosmic seeds in the early universe that should grow into supermassive black holes. Researchers combined data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observato...
Monday, May 23, 2016

Are Mars' mysterious plumes caused by space weather?

“Our plasma observations tell us that there was a space weather event large enough to impact Mars and increase the escape of plasma from the planet’s atmosphere," said David Andrews of the Swedish Institute of Space Physics, and lead auth...

Hubble sees a swarm of ancient star clusters around a galaxy

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows star clusters encircling a galaxy, like bees buzzing around a hive. The hive in question is an edge-on lenticular galaxy NGC 5308, located just under 100 million light-years away in the constellation U...

Missed Slooh's Mars opposition show? Rewatch it here

Last night, Mars put on a spectacular show in the sky, coming as close as it will until 2018. There's still plenty of time to see a crisp, bright Mars in the night sky (it'll be the second or third brightest object, depending on the night) but if you...
Friday, May 20, 2016

The Sky This Week: May 20 - May 29

Friday, May 20 • Another comet in the growing crowd of such objects discovered by the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii makes its appearance in May’s morning sky. Comet PANSTARRS (C/2013 X1) currently glows around 7th magnitude in eastern Aq...

European astronomers may have found a new way to find alien planets

EU researchers have pioneered new calibration strategies for detecting "habitable" planets outside our solar system – with impressive results already. The existence of extra-terrestrial life presupposes the existence of habitable planets &ndas...
Thursday, May 19, 2016

First evidence of icy comets orbiting a sun-like star

An international team of astronomers has found evidence of ice and comets orbiting a nearby sun-like star, which could give a glimpse into how our own solar system developed. Using data from the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), the researchers...

Ancient tsunamis pummeled the surface of Mars

Not only was Mars once a wet planet. New evidence, published today in Nature’s Scientific Reports, paints a picture of violent tsunamis as well. Tsunamis on Earth are often caused by earthquakes on the ocean floor or similar events. To an exten...

Astronomers confirm the faintest early galaxy ever detected

An international team of scientists has detected and confirmed the faintest early-universe galaxy ever using the W. M. Keck Observatory on the summit on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. The team detected the galaxy as it was 13 billion years ago, or when the univ...

Watch Mars in Opposition LIVE With Slooh Observatory

Sunday night, Mars will make its closest approach to Earth, known as opposition. Slooh Observatory will be livecasting the event, which you can see in the below media player. Opposition occurs when a planet anterior to Earth sits directly "behind" it...
Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Uranus May Have a Layer That Keeps Its Glow Dim

A transition zone within Uranus' mantle may help solve the mystery of its faint glow. The ice giant shines far less than its sibling, Neptune, for reasons that have remained tantalizingly out of reach for decades. A new model suggests that including ...

Europa’s ocean may have an Earth-like chemical balance

A new NASA study modeling conditions in the ocean of Jupiter's moon Europa suggests that the necessary balance of chemical energy for life could exist there, even if the moon lacks volcanic hydrothermal activity. Europa is strongly believed to hide ...

New Horizons collects first science on a Kuiper Belt object past Pluto

Warming up for a possible extended mission as it speeds through deep space, NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has now twice observed 1994 JR1, a 90-mile-wide (145 kilometers) Kuiper Belt object (KBO) orbiting more than 3 billion miles (5 billion k...
Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Dwarf planet Haumea’s lunar system smaller than anticipated

Haumea, a dwarf planet on the edge of our solar system, doesn’t have the same kind of moons as its well-known cousin Pluto, according to a new study. This is despite original evidence that suggested they both formed in similar giant impacts, ad...

Clues to ancient giant asteroid found in western Australia

Scientists have found evidence of a huge asteroid that struck Earth early in its life with an impact larger than anything humans have experienced. Tiny glass beads called spherules, found in northwestern Australia, were formed from vaporized materia...
Monday, May 16, 2016

Andre Brahic, discoverer of Neptune’s rings, dies at age 73

French astrophysicist Andre Brahic, one of the discoverers of Neptune's rings, died in Paris Sunday at the age of 73, his publisher Odile Jacob said. "He was a brilliant character... extraordinarily warm, profound and authentic, great scholar and a...

Hunting for hidden life on worlds orbiting old red stars

All throughout the universe, there are stars in varying phases and ages. Planetary diversity suggests that around other stars, initially frozen worlds could be the size of Earth and provide habitable conditions once the star becomes older. The oldest...
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