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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 26, 2021

The Sky This Week: Enter the Snow Moon

Friday, February 26 Monoceros the Unicorn sits sandwiched between Orion’s two hunting dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor. You’ll find it sinking in the southwest one to two hours after sunset — but before this region disappears, take...
Thursday, February 25, 2021

In pictures: Relive the 2020 annular eclipse of the Sun

The wild year of 2020 boasted two solar eclipses: an annular eclipse on June 21 and a total solar eclipse on December 14. Travel restrictions prevented North Americans, as well as many others in the Western Hemisphere, from viewing the path of annula...

Watch: Fly through the Crab Nebula’s delicate heart

The Crab Nebula (M1) is one of the most famous objects in our sky. This cloud of dust and gas marks the gravesite of a massive star that went supernova some 5,300 years ago. Although it appears as a smudgy, fuzzy patch of light through smaller scope...

Infinity & Beyond — Episode 16: Pluto's icy heart

Pluto’s icy “heart" is the distant world’s most recognizable feature. The region, composed of two distinct lobes, is shaped by what looks like a giant impact basin the size of Texas. The heart’s western lobe, brought into cle...
Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Hidden in plain sight: Scouring the notebooks of the Harvard's 'human computers'

Citizen Science Salon is a partnership between Discover, our sister publication, and SciStarter.Org. More than 100 years ago, Harvard astronomer Edward Charles Pickering decided he was going to take a picture of the entire night sky. Or, rather, man...

Space Force sounds like a joke — and that could be a problem for an important military branch

The U.S. Space Force has a serious role to play in the modern world. Its stated mission is to train and equip personnel to defend U.S. interests in space. Given the increasing military and economic importance of space, the USSF is likely to grow in i...
Tuesday, February 23, 2021

What shape is the universe?

The theory of general relativity, under which space itself can curve, allows for the universe to take one of three forms: flat like a sheet of paper, closed like a sphere, or open like a saddle. This astronomical geometry is no trivial matter —...

The search for dark matter gets a boost from quantum technology

Nearly a century after dark matter was first proposed to explain the motion of galaxy clusters, physicists still have no idea what it’s made of. Researchers around the world have built dozens of detectors in hopes of discovering dark matter. A...

Exoplanets’ magnetic poles likely wander and flip like Earth’s do

Earth’s magnetic field is vital to maintaining the habitable environment we currently enjoy. This protective bubble deflects solar wind particles and prevents them from eroding the atmosphere. But Earth’s north magnetic pole is on the m...
Monday, February 22, 2021

Ask Astro: Why do galaxies have spiral arms? Do smaller objects have them too?

Q: What causes the formation of spiral arms in galaxies? Do spiral arms form in other flattened groups of orbiting objects, like planetary rings and protostellar disks? Robert Harrison Albuquerque, New Mexico A: Spiral arms in galaxies can form by ...

SpaceX vs. NASA: Who will get us to the Moon first?

No-one has visited the Moon since 1972. But with the advent of commercial human spaceflight, the urge to return is resurgent and generating a new space race. NASA has selected the private company SpaceX to be part of its commercial spaceflight operat...

WATCH: Stunning real video of Perseverance landing on Mars

Today, NASA’s Perseverance rover team released some of the most stunning footage ever captured — the first video of a spacecraft landing on another planet. Perseverance landed safely on Mars at 3:55 p.m. EST on Thursday, February 18, 2...

Snapshot: Black holes sprinkled in a globular star cluster

Globular clusters — spherical collections of ancient stars — are some of the oldest surviving inhabitants of our universe. For example, the cluster pictured above, NGC 6397, is roughly 13.4 billion years old, or nearly as old as the cosmo...
Sunday, February 21, 2021

Ask Astro: What happens when a galaxy ejects its supermassive black hole?

Q: What will happen to the stars in the galaxy 3C186, now that the central supermassive black hole has been ejected from the galactic center? Will they slowly drift apart, or will their collective mass hold them together for a while? Dennis Moore Hou...
Saturday, February 20, 2021

Apophis: Doomsday asteroid, or just a passing space rock?

The asteroid Apophis sits atop a shortlist of potentially dangerous objects that could one day hit Earth. And in March, the aircraft carrier-sized asteroid will make its final close path to Earth before 2029, a year when astronomers once wondered if ...
Friday, February 19, 2021

Ask Astro: Can New Horizons help us find Planet Nine?

Q: Since New Horizons’ flyby of Arrokoth in January 2019, is the spacecraft zooming toward a new target? Is New Horizons able to search for Planet Nine? Douglas Kaupa Council Bluffs, Iowa A: New Horizons is healthy and routinely studying the ...

The spacecraft-killing anomaly over the South Atlantic

Radiation is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless enemy to both humans and electronics alike. And, thanks to a quirk in Earth’s magnetic field, a region called the South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA) regularly exposes orbiting spacecraft to high level...

The Sky This Week: Mercury, Saturn, and Jupiter shine

Friday, February 19 First Quarter Moon occurs at 1:47 P.M. EST. The Moon is a popular observing target because it is accessible to everyone, regardless of your observing experience or equipment. Taking some time to get to know our satellite at every ...

Readers React: Your responses to Perseverance’s touchdown on Mars

Perseverance, NASA’s newest Mars rover, successfully touched down on the Red Planet on February 18, completing an interplanetary journey that began when it launched on July 30. The rover’s accomplishment sparked excitement and celebration...

Success! NASA safely lands Perseverance on Mars

You can finally exhale. NASA’s Perseverance rover is safe and sound on Mars. At approximately 3:55 p.m. EST on Thursday, February 18, 2021, NASA mission control erupted in jubilation upon receiving confirmation that their latest interplanetar...
Thursday, February 18, 2021

If Perseverance finds evidence of life on Mars, how will we recognize it?

If all goes according to plan, the arrival of NASA's Perseverance rover on February 18, 2021, will mark the end of an era in Mars exploration. The first era began in 1964 when Mariner 4, the first successful Mars spacecraft, flew by the planet and s...

Jezero Crater: Perseverance rover will soon explore geology of ancient crater lake

On the afternoon of February 18 (Earth time here in Ohio), NASA's most ambitious and sophisticated rover will hopefully land on Mars to start years of exploration around Jezero Crater. Much like NASA's other rover missions -- Spirit, Opportunity and ...

NASA’s Mars rover landing today is a feat of Perseverance

After a seven-month long journey, Perseverance is almost at Mars. After traveling some 293 million miles (473 million kilometers), NASA’s latest Mars rover is set to land today at 3:55 P.M. EST. Though Perseverance now stands on the verge of t...

The Skycrane: How NASA's Perseverance rover will land on Mars

When NASA’s Perseverance rover lands on Mars this afternoon, the robot will owe its safe passage to one of the most unlikely pieces of technology developed since the dawn of the Space Age: the Skycrane. This seemingly sci-fi system sees the rov...
Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Mars Madness: How Perseverance will stick the landing during its 7 minutes of terror

Tomorrow afternoon, Perseverance will burst through Mars’ atmosphere traveling at around 12,000 mph (19,300 km/hour). Then, just a mere seven minutes later, Perseverance will have (hopefully) slowed down enough to safely land somewhere inside J...

NASA's Perseverance rover lands tomorrow. A lead scientist explains its goals and tech

Editor’s note: Jim Bell is a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University and has worked on a number of Mars missions. On Feb. 18, NASA’s Mars 2020 mission will be arriving at the red planet, and hope...
Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Top 10 space stories of 2020

2020 was a wild year. Astronomers kicked it off with the discovery of a distant galaxy group. Closer to home, they saw the Milky Way doing the wave and confirmed geologic activity on Mars. The star Betelgeuse underwent a strange and striking dimming ...

Martian dust storms may glow in the dark

(Inside Science) -- Windblown torrents of dust and sand can swallow the Martian landscape and black out the Sun. But within that darkness, electricity might sparkle and glow, new research suggests. Triboelectrification, or the buildup of electrical c...
Monday, February 15, 2021

Alan Shepard smacked golf balls on the Moon — and now we know where they landed

In the annals of golf history, Alan Shepard's shots from the lunar sand may be the most famous swings ever taken. And after 50 years, image analysts have finally determined how far his golf balls went. When America's first man in space was assigned ...

Mars Madness: Perseverance rover is about to begin its mission

Every 10 years, planetary scientists put their collective minds together to develop mission recommendations for the decade ahead. The most recent of these decadal surveys, published in 2011, had a clear top priority for NASA: to collect samples from ...
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