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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.

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Sky This Month: October 2022

Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are October’s major attractions. They offer stunning views at various times of night. In addition, Uranus and Mercury are occulted by the Moon, though both events are challenging observations. The month wraps up with a...

Mars is littered with thousands of pounds of trash from 50 years of robotic exploration

People have been exploring the surface of Mars for over 50 years. According to the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, nations have sent 18 human-made objects to Mars over 14 separate missions. Many of these missions are still ongoing, but...

Stunning James Webb Space Telescope images get X-ray boost from Chandra data

Not since Hubble's heyday has a space telescope captured our interest — or our news cycle — quite like the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). And some of its latest photos are no exception. After months of calibrations, JWST released its...
Wednesday, October 5, 2022

See fall’s best Messier objects

It’s been six months since astronomy clubs around the globe hosted events for the Messier marathon. The goal of this single-night observing challenge is to catch all 109 deep-sky objects in French comet-hunter Charles Messier’s famous cat...

Are we alone? The search for intelligent life in the universe

Are we alone? This question has plagued humankind since time immemorial. And yet, we still don’t have a conclusive answer. Despite our incredible technological advancements, we have never received a credible radio signal from, or even the teeni...

101 Must-See Cosmic Objects: M100

Just 2° northeast of 6th-magnitude 6 Comae Berenices is 9th-magnitude M100. Located some 55 million light-years distant, it is the Virgo Cluster’s brightest spiral galaxy. The galaxy was another find in 1781 by French comet hunter Pierre M&...
Tuesday, October 4, 2022

James Webb and Hubble capture aftermath of DART slamming into asteroid

Zipping through space at some 14,000 mph (22,500 km/h), NASA’s DART spacecraft slammed into the surface of a small asteroid on Sept. 27, 2022. Despite the modest mass of the buggy-sized spacecraft, the collision ejected large plumes of material that ...

Physicists share 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics for insights into the spooky world of quantum mechanics

The 2022 Nobel prize for physics has been awarded to a trio of scientists for pioneering experiments in quantum mechanics, the theory covering the micro-world of atoms and particles. Alain Aspect from Université Paris-Saclay in France, John Cl...

Astronomers unveil new method for finding white dwarf exoplanets

The solar system is surrounded by a colorful array of stellar neighbors. Within about 30 light-years of Earth, there are 74 main sequence stars, 284 red dwarf stars and 21 white dwarfs. These stars are attractive targets for exoplanet hunters because...
Monday, October 3, 2022

101 Must-See Cosmic Objects: The Hyades

Crisp winter nights bring us a glorious naked-eye treasure: the Hyades. This V-shaped gathering of suns has been recognized as a celestial bull since at least 4000 b.c., when the Sun resided among its stars during the spring equinox — a hopeful...

NASA revisits Europa with Juno spacecraft

NASA’s Juno spacecraft just made the closest flyby of Jupiter’s moon, Europa, in over two decades. Juno swept within 219 miles (352 kilometers) of the icy world on Thursday, Sept. 29. The pass was only a mile shy of the closest visit on r...

Postcards from around the solar system

In the last decades of the 15th century, Western Europe experienced a metaphorical Big Bang — a sudden explosion of geographical knowledge that was later dubbed the Age of Discovery. Improved sailing ships carried profit-minded crews into uncha...
Friday, September 30, 2022

Explained: What pixel binning means for smartphone photography

This month, Apple released the iPhone 14 Pro with a 48-megapixel camera — the highest resolution camera ever in an iPhone. However, the camera also has the flexibility to produce a 12-megapixel image. With this latest generation of iPhones, Apple joi...

The Sky This Week: Observe the Moon

Friday, September 30 Asteroid 4 Vesta lies near M30, a densely packed globular cluster in the constellation Capricornus, tonight. The main-belt world is currently magnitude 6.7, which you can easily net with binoculars or a small scope. Similarly, M3...

101 Must-See Cosmic Objects: The Trifid Nebula

The Trifid Nebula (M20) is the trifecta of deep-sky objects: It combines a blue reflection nebula with an emission nebula glowing in red Hydrogen-alpha (Hα) light, all divvied up by opaque lanes of dark nebulosity threaded throughout. For all...

James Webb captures galaxy sparkling with universe’s earliest star clusters

As its first image, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) revealed the deepest infrared image of the universe to date. The image is teeming with thousands of galaxies, including some from when the cosmos was less than a billion years old. These earl...

This Saturday, celebrate International Observe the Moon Night with NASA

The story of the Moon is deeply connected to the story of our own planet. We’re sharing space – literally – with it, and everything we learn about the Moon helps us better understand the Earth and our place in the solar system. And many of us have a ...
Thursday, September 29, 2022

SOFIA airborne observatory takes final flight

Most infrared light from outer space never reaches the ground. It’s absorbed along the way by plentiful water in Earth’s atmosphere. So if astronomers want to observe that distant light, they have to get creative. For years, particularl...

NASA rolls back Artemis 1 due to Hurricane Ian

As Hurricane Ian gained momentum early this week, hurling its way toward Florida’s coast, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral on Monday moved the Artemis 1 Moon rocket off historic launch pad 39B. The SLS megarocket was transp...
Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Swarms of swimming robots may soon explore alien seas

In our search for life beyond Earth, the ocean worlds — icy moons with deep seas — have become primary targets. But these exotic moons have one problem: Their oceans, which astrobiologists think may host life, are trapped beneath miles of...

101 Must-See Cosmic Objects: Seyfert's Sextet

Located in Serpens Caput, a constellation with few deep-sky objects, Seyfert’s Sextet was one of the first compact galaxy groups ever noted. That occurred in 1948, when astronomer Carl Seyfert discovered that the previously cataloged NGC 6027 w...

Ask Astro: Why are planets and stars round?

Why are planets and stars round? Richard Fulton San Diego, California Small celestial bodies, like comets or dwarf planets, can sometimes have bizarre shapes — just look at ‘Oumuamua, the interstellar visitor whose strange, elonga...
Tuesday, September 27, 2022

NASA crashed a spacecraft into an asteroid. Here are DART's final images before impact

In a world first, NASA has crashed a spacecraft into an asteroid in an attempt to push the rocky traveler off its trajectory. The Double Asteroid Redirection Test – or DART – is meant to test one potential approach that could prevent an asteroid from...

Snapshot: The Lobster Nebula claws through young stars

Within the constellation Scorpius the Scorpion lies another galactic arthropod, the Lobster Nebula (NGC 6357). And recently, this Lobster was photographed by the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) on the Víctor M. Blanco 4-meter Telescope at Cerro Tol...

Jupiter reaches its biggest and brightest in nearly 60 years

Editor's note: Jupiter's opposition occurred on Monday (Sept. 26) at 4 P.M. EDT. However, if you plan to observe the gas giant, it will continue to be near its finest for the next few weeks. In 2022, Jupiter reaches opposition — the point in ...
Monday, September 26, 2022

101 Must-See Cosmic Objects: M22

In 1665, while observing Saturn (which was located in Sagittarius at the time), German astronomer Johann Abraham Ihle came upon an unexpected sight. Just over 2° northeast of 3rd-magnitude Kaus Borealis (Lambda [λ] Sagittarii) at the top o...

Asteroid Ryugu is made of rubble from the outer solar system

Early in the morning on Dec. 6, 2020, JAXA’s Hayabusa2’s sample-return capsule streaked through the sky over Woomera, Australia. The heat-shielded capsule, packed with material blasted from the surface of asteroid Ryugu in 2018, descended...

Ask Astro: How do telescopes see different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum?

How do we create telescopes that see different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum? Frank Coulter Pauanui Beach, New Zealand The range of colors or wavelengths that a telescope can observe depends on the design of both the telescope itself ...
Saturday, September 24, 2022

NASA's DART spacecraft is about to slam into an asteroid

Move over, Bruce Willis. Your asteroid-deflecting services — dramatically portrayed in Armageddon — are no longer needed. At least, we hope so. NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test, or DART, spacecraft is set to impact the tiny a...
Friday, September 23, 2022

The Sky This Week: Jupiter reaches opposition

Friday, September 23 Mercury reaches inferior conjunction at 3 A.M. EDT. But never fear, it won’t be gone for long — we’ll start to see it in the morning sky early next month. A few hours before the Sun rises, Mars stands high in...

101 Must-See Cosmic Objects: M55

M55 is one of the most unsung yet beautiful globular star clusters in the night sky. It’s also one of the most southerly globulars in Charles Messier’s catalog. Abbe Nicolas Louis de Lacaille discovered it in 1751 while surveying the sout...

Letter to Starmus: A volunteer reflects on the star-studded festival

Dear Starmus Festival, It’s Sammy here. I’m not sure if this is a closure or the beginning of a new chapter in my life. You see, I’m a sixth-year medical student in Yerevan. Yes, the city you stormed into so unexpectedly but left to...

Starmus Festival rocks Armenia with help of Queen guitarist Brian May

A dozen years ago, two inventive minds got together and launched the Starmus Festival, an international celebration of science and music. Its creators, astronomer Garik Israelian and astronomer/musician Brian May, envisioned a week in which anyone co...

Maarten Schmidt, the father of quasars, dies at age 92

The world of astronomy mourned the recent passing of Dutch-American astronomer Maarten Schmidt, the first person to measure the distance to a quasar. His groundbreaking work in the 1960’s greatly expanded the size of the known universe, providi...
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