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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, September 17, 2021

The Sky This Week: Keep an eye on the Moon

Friday, September 17 The Wild Duck Cluster (M11) is a great target this evening. Located in Scutum, it’s still relatively high in the south after sunset. You can find M11 by dropping 1.8° southeast of 4th-magnitude Beta (β) Scuti, also...

What is the Harvest Moon effect?

For those in the Northern Hemisphere, the autumnal equinox marks the start of fall. This year, the equinox falls on Wednesday, September 22 at 3:21 P.M. EDT. At that time, the Sun will cross the celestial equator — the projection of Earth&rsquo...
Thursday, September 16, 2021

Where to see the next solar eclipse

Without question, Earth’s most spectacular naturally occurring event is a total solar eclipse. This is only possible because the Sun and Moon take up the same amount of space in our sky, allowing the Moon to perfectly block out the Sun. Experie...

Inspiration4, the first all-civilian spaceflight, is now in orbit

Last night at 8:02 PM EDT, the crew of Inspiration 4 — the first all-civilian spaceflight — blasted off from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Tucked inside a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, which was lofted to...
Wednesday, September 15, 2021

These are the most peculiar galaxies you can observe

Forty years ago, I penned my first of many articles for Astronomy. It ran in the February 1981 issue as “Observing Peculiar Galaxies.” The term peculiar galaxies refers to a class of galaxies whose distorted shapes resemble neither classi...
Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Explore the sky with Oberwerk’s 20×65 ED Deluxe binoculars

Those readers familiar with my Binocular Universe column may recall my monthly sign-off line, “Two eyes are better than one.” That’s not just a cliché; that’s my mantra. Ever since I became interested in astronomy, bino...

When north goes south: Is Earth's magnetic field flipping?

Something odd is happening to Earth’s magnetic field. Over the last 200 years, it’s been slowly weakening and shifting its magnetic north pole (where a compass points, not to be confused with the geographic north pole) from the Canadian A...
Monday, September 13, 2021

SpaceX Inspiration4 mission will send 4 people with minimal training into orbit

On Sept. 15, 2021, the next batch of space tourists are set to lift off aboard a SpaceX rocket. Organized and funded by entrepreneur Jared Isaacman, the Inspiration4 mission touts itself as “the first all-civilian mission to orbit” and re...

Ask Astro: Does Planet Nine have enough mass to be a black hole?

I’ve seen it suggested that the hypothetical planet Nine could be a black hole five to 10 times the mass of Earth. As I understood it, however, the minimum weight of a black hole is 3 solar masses, so how could the Planet be a black hole? Will...
Friday, September 10, 2021

Untangling the Tarantula Nebula, the sky's largest stellar nursery

In 1799, French soldiers unearthed a large black rock near the Egyptian town of Rosetta (now Rashid) in the Nile delta. Inscribed on its flat face were three versions of a single decree from 196 b.c. affirming the royalty of 13-year-old Ptolemy V: on...

Snapshot: Dusty light veers from a black hole’s throat

A black hole recently gobbled up material from its companion star in the binary system V404 Cygni, located 7,800 light-years from Earth. As the black hole’s meal swirled around it in 2015, the matter heated up and the system emitted a powerful burst ...

Ask Astro: How did Earth's gravity capture (then lose) a 50-year-old rocket booster?

A rocket booster that launched a 1966 NASA lunar probe was captured by Earth’s gravity in November 2019. It then escaped our gravity in March 2021. What gave it enough energy to escape? R.C. Timm Florissant, Colorado The motion of the boost...

The Sky This Week: Neptune reaches opposition

Friday, September 10 Asteroid (2) Pallas reaches opposition at 10 P.M. EDT tonight. The large main-belt world is currently located in Pisces; it’s rising as the Sun sets and will be visible all night. Pallas glows softly around magnitude 8.5 &m...
Thursday, September 9, 2021

Astro for Kids: Why are planets round?

Why are planets round? – Daniel B., La Crosse, Wisconsin The ancient Greeks proved over 2,000 years ago that the Earth was round and figured out how big it was by using simple observations of the Sun. But how do people know this today? When y...

Perseverance samples its first (two) rocks

NASA’s newest rover is on a mission to not only explore Mars but collect samples for future study on Earth. Perseverance is carrying 43 sample tubes, inside which it will store drilled samples of rock for later collection. The first step in thi...
Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The rise and fall of Arecibo Observatory - an oral history

When the receiving platform at the legendary Arecibo Observatory came crashing down in a 900-ton heap of twisted metal on Dec. 1, 2020, it was a tragic end to a living monument with a storied history. Upon opening in 1963, the telescope was called t...

Why haven't humans reached Mars?

In an earlier version of this story, we had stated that Mars was 34 billion miles away, when in actuality, it's only 34 million miles away. We have since fixed this error and apologize for the mistake. When it comes to interplanetary destinations in...
Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Video: How much does Earth weigh?

(Inside Science) -- Earth isn't even close to being the largest planet in our solar system, but it's also no lightweight, weighing in at a whopping 13 thousand, 170 billion trillion pounds, or 13,170,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. To put that into cont...
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