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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, October 15, 2018

Chandra X-ray Observatory back online after failure

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory will soon be observing the cosmos once again, the space agency said Monday. A scare last week left the spacecraft in safe mode. Chandra is a space observatory that observes extreme objects that emit X-rays, like...

Hayabusa2’s close encounter with asteroid Ryugu

This past summer, Hayabusa2 — a spacecraft, operated by the Japanese Space Agency JAXA, sent to collect and return asteroid samples — arrived at asteroid Ryugu. Today, the craft comes close to the asteroid in the first of two touchdown re...

The five brightest planets align in the night sky

For the second time this year, the five brightest planets in our solar system — Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars — will be visible in the night sky at the same time. The planets will form a line that rises up from the horizon in...
Friday, October 12, 2018

Orion, harbinger of winter, begins rising around midnight

The night sky’s most conspicuous harbinger of winter now rises in the east around midnight local daylight time. The constellation Orion the Hunter appears on its side as it rises, with ruddy Betelgeuse to the left of the three-star belt and bl...

How did Titan get its haze?

Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is enveloped in a thick, hazy atmosphere. One new research collaboration has identified a chemical mechanism that could help to explain how the moon's haze formed. Titan’s Haze “Both space probes and ...

The Jesuit astronomer who conceived of the Big Bang

In 1927, a prescient astronomer named Georges Lemaître looked at data showing how galaxies move. He noticed something peculiar – all of them appeared to be speeding away from Earth. Not only that, but the farther away they were, the faste...

The sky this week for October 12 to 21

Friday, October 12 The night sky’s most conspicuous harbinger of winter now rises in the east around midnight local daylight time. The constellation Orion the Hunter appears on its side as it rises, with ruddy Betelgeuse to the left of the thr...
Thursday, October 11, 2018

Apollo 7: 50 years ago

On January 27, 1967, Apollo 1 crew members Roger Chaffee, Ed White, and Gus Grissom were killed in a fire during a test of the spacecraft while on the launchpad. Twenty-one months later, the three men who had originally served as their backup crew &m...

Soyuz rocket failure: What went wrong, and what happens next

Launch Failure Two astronauts made an emergency landing this morning in Kazakhstan after a Russian Soyuz rocket failed while launching them to the International Space Station. According to NASA officials, the rocket failed in its ascent soon after ...

Black holes can't explain dark matter

The hunt for a dark matter explanation seems endless, but now we can mostly rule out one often mentioned potential culprit: black holes. “The idea of primordial black holes as dark matter is quite old, with some papers already in the ’70...

This massive star died with a whisper, not a bang

A Strange, Dying Star Astronomers watched the strange death of a massive star that had a surprisingly “wimpy” and fast explosion in a galaxy 920 million light-years away. According to the researchers, this unusual explosion suggests tha...

The Moon and Jupiter make a pretty pair after sunset

Look low in the west-southwest after sunset and you’ll see a slender crescent Moon standing 4° above Jupiter. The pretty pair stands nearly 10° above the horizon an hour after sunset and sets shortly after the last vestiges of twilight...
Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Order of the Dolphin: SETI’s secret origin story

In 1961, when UFOs were all the rage, a group of top scientific minds met in secret at a rural observatory in West Virginia. At the time, the Green Bank Observatory was the biggest, baddest telescope in the burgeoning practice of radio astronomy. Whi...

What's next for commercial spaceflight?

In many industries, a decade is barely enough time to cause dramatic change unless something disruptive comes along – a new technology, business model or service design. The space industry has recently been enjoying all three. But 10 years ago...

Richard Branson claims Virgin Galactic will be in space “within weeks”

According to Sir Richard Branson, founder of the space tourism company Virgin Galactic, their latest spaceplane, SpaceShipTwo, will be in space in a matter of weeks. “We should be in space within weeks, not months. And then we will be in space...
Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The case of Ceres' wandering pole

NASA’s Dawn mission has uncovered a wealth of information about the largest objects in our asteroid belt: Vesta and Ceres. Since its arrival at the latter in 2015, the spacecraft has revealed an active icy world full of surprises, one more of w...

Hubble Space Telescope in safe mode after gyro failure

On Friday, NASA’s iconic Hubble Space Telescope, our window into the universe since 1990, went into a protective safe mode after one of its gyroscopes failed. Hubble was built with six gyroscopes designed to keep the telescope pointed the same...

The Moon makes way for zodiacal light tomorrow morning

The Moon’s absence from the morning sky over these next two weeks provides observers with an excellent opportunity to view the hazy glow of zodiacal light. From the Northern Hemisphere, the time around the autumnal equinox (which occurred 2.5 ...

Scientists are figuring out how to farm Mars

A visit to Mars is almost guaranteed within the next decade or so, with everyone from NASA to warring tech billionaires setting their sights on the Red Planet. And long-term occupation may not be much farther behind. But before we do, there are many...

Apollo 7: NASA’s first mini-mutiny in space

Almost exactly 50 years ago, NASA launched the first crewed Apollo mission into space. The goal was to test the latest spaceship tech, ensuring humans could survive their long trip to the moon, and the expedition also marked the first 3-person Americ...

Is Planet X guiding dwarf planets around our solar system?

Astronomers have found a dwarf planet out beyond Neptune called “The Goblin” because of its initial discovery around Halloween. The Goblin, officially named 2015 TG387, joins other small objects far out in our solar system, and it adds to...
Monday, October 8, 2018

How will we return to the Moon?

It looks like the Moon is back in style. Decades after NASA’s last trip to our satellite, both Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin have recently announced plans for lunar landers, and NASA hopes to build a Lunar Orbital-Platform Gateway that would ...

MASCOT mission accomplished at Ryugu

Hayabusa2 watches the MASCOT lander descend to the surface of asteroid Ryugu. JAXA, Tokyo University, Kochi Univ., Rikkyo Univ., Nagoya Univ., Chiba Institute of Technology, Meiji Univ., Aizu Univ., AIST In yet another historic feat, Hayabusa2&rs...

Do towering spikes of ice exist on Europa?

Jupiter’s icy moon Europa has come into the spotlight as one of the likeliest places in the solar system to find Earth-like life. Scientists believe that beneath its icy shell lurks a liquid ocean, perhaps even one that’s relatively warm ...

Voyager 2 spacecraft approaches interstellar space

When it comes to space exploration, no one has the Voyager missions beat. On October 5, NASA reported that their Voyager 2 spacecraft is nearing our heliosphere’s outer borders, and could soon enter interstellar space. Data shows that the probe...
Friday, October 5, 2018

The sky this week for October 5 to 14

Friday, October 5 Look high in the east after darkness falls this week and you should see autumn’s most conspicuous star group. The Great Square of Pegasus stands out in the evening sky at this time of year, though it appears balanced on one c...
Thursday, October 4, 2018

Liquid crystals of RNA could explain how life started on Earth

There are a number of theories about how life began on Earth, but one new study published October 3 in ACS Nano suggests that the building blocks of life could have been created with liquid crystals. Liquid crystals have properties of both conventi...

Saturn's ring rain is a downpour, not a drizzle

Before it plunged into the atmosphere of Saturn on its final death dive, the Cassini spacecraft made 22 orbits of the planet that followed a path no probe had taken before: It flew between the massive planet and its rings. During those final orbits, ...

This is what NASA learned when Cassini dove into Saturn

Over its nearly 20-year mission, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft redefined our understanding of Saturn. And while Cassini sent its final transmissions to Earth as it dove into the ringed planet last September, scientists have just published more than...
Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Why do galaxies align?

One of the most striking features of the distribution of matter in the universe is its filamentary appearance, with long, luminous strands of galaxies woven together into a vast cosmic web. Nowhere is this more evident than the Perseus-Pisces Super...

Extragalactic stars found zipping through the Milky Way

The Milky Way is apparently a hotspot for stars immigrating from other galaxies. In a new study published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, a trio of astronomers set out to find hypervelocity stars fleeing our galaxy, but surpri...

Gamma rays illuminate one of the Milky Way’s weirdest objects

At vast cosmic distances, supermassive black holes called quasars gobble up matter into accretion disks that shine so brightly, they overpower the light from entire galaxies. Closer to home, compact objects called microquasars give astronomers a scal...

Learn to farm on Mars with this fake martian soil

If you watched or read “The Martian,” and wanted to try your hand at living on Mars or becoming a Martian farmer like Mark Watney, then today is your lucky day. Astrophysicists at the University of Central Florida have developed a scienti...

The first exomoon may have just been discovered in a distant star system

Astronomers say they may have found the first confirmed exomoon, or moon orbiting a planet outside of our solar system. However, the pair of astronomers behind the find say it's much too soon to completely prove the exomoon’s presence. After lo...
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Introducing ‘The Goblin’: A new, distant dwarf planet bolsters evidence for Planet X

Far beyond the orbits of the solar system’s eight planets, astronomers have found another object they’ve nicknamed “The Goblin.” It’s a small world traveling a lonely path through the outer reaches of our cosmic neighbor...

How do planetary systems outweigh the disks they formed in?

We’ve long thought that planets formed solely from the dust and gas that surrounds their young host stars, but that theory is now being challenged. A new study published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics found that, more often than no...

For the third time ever, a woman has won the Nobel Prize in physics

(Inside Science) — The 2018 Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded to three scientists who took lasers to new levels. The first half of the prize goes to Arthur Ashkin from Bell Laboratories in Holmdel, New Jersey, “for the optical twee...
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