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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, August 19, 2022

The Sky This Week: Vesta visits the Helix

Friday, August 19 Last Quarter Moon occurs at 12:36 A.M. EDT; later this morning, the Moon will pass 3° due north of Mars at 8 A.M. EDT. With no Moon in the evening sky this week, it’s going to be a great time for some deep-sky observing...

101 Must-See Cosmic Objects: Stephan's Quintet

Stephan’s Quintet, one of the first science targets of the James Webb Space Telescope, sits just 0.5° southwest of NGC 7331, making it one of the easiest tight groups to find. Halton C. Arp listed this compact group as Arp 319 in his 1966 A...

Ask Astro: Do black holes have stronger magnetic fields than neutron stars?

I’ve read that the strength of a neutron star’s magnetic field is greater than any other found in the universe. Wouldn’t a supermassive black hole have a stronger one? Patrick Clough Wichita, Kansas The answer to this question ...

Mystery crater potentially caused by relative of dinosaur-killing asteroid

The ocean floor is famously less explored than the surface of Mars. And when our team of scientists recently mapped the seabed, and ancient sediments beneath, we discovered what looks like an asteroid impact crater. Intriguingly, the crater, named &l...
Thursday, August 18, 2022

Postcards from the Oort Cloud: Sending comets through the mail

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, postcards were the social medium of choice, The period between 1907 and 1915 is now known as the Golden Age of Postcards. At its peak, it is estimated that the U.S. postal service mailed out over a billion o...
Wednesday, August 17, 2022

101 Must-See Cosmic Objects: The Carina Nebula

The Orion Nebula may be the best-known emission nebula, but it loses to the Carina Nebula (NGC 3372) as the most spectacular. Measuring 2° across, the Carina Nebula looks like an ethereal orchid blossoming, with many dark rifts dividing it into s...

Interpreting 5 ancient constellations across cultures

Civilizations come and go, with some lasting mere decades while others endure for millennia. But what rarely changes, at least on human timescales, are the stars above us. Nonetheless, past cultures have often connected the dots of various stars in d...

Ask Astro: Why will DAVINCI drop through Venus’ atmosphere so quickly?

Why will the DAVINCI spacecraft jettison its parachute so soon after entering Venus’ atmosphere? Won’t this result in less time to collect data and images? Steven Portalupi Newmarket, New Hampshire Venus and its massive atmosphere pre...
Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Best telescopes for stargazers in light-polluted cities

Many astronomy enthusiasts live under the veil of light pollution, either from local sources like poorly aimed lights on neighboring houses or the enormous light domes enveloping large cities. It can be quite discouraging at first. But it doesn&rsquo...

War in Ukraine highlights importance of private satellite companies

Satellites owned by private companies have played an unexpectedly important role in the war in Ukraine. For example, in early August 2022, images from the private satellite company Planet Labs showed that a recent attack on a Russian military base in...
Monday, August 15, 2022

Snapshot: Astronomers find glowing gas around a baby planet

Observing planets in the process of being born is a challenging task. But in recent years, radio telescopes like the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) have captured images of glowing disks of material around young stars. The image a...

101 Must-See Cosmic Objects: Alpha and Proxima Centauri

The third-brightest star in the sky, Alpha (α) Centauri, gleams in the southern constellation Centaurus. Since it is positioned at a declination of almost –61°, only stargazers located south of latitude 29° have any hope of seeing...

See Saturn’s rings at their finest

Saturn, the ringed wonder, achieved opposition this year on Aug. 14 at 17h02m Universal Time (UT). With its rings currently 14° open, now is the perfect time to target the solar system's showpiece gas giant. It will be another five years before S...
Friday, August 12, 2022

The Sky This Week: Mighty Saturn reaches opposition

Friday, August 12 The Perseid meteor shower peaks today with a still nearly Full Super Moon in the sky, which will make viewing all but the brightest fireballs difficult. For those at mid-northern latitudes or higher, the radiant in Perseus is always...

101 Must-See Cosmic Objects: The Blackeye Galaxy

Extragalactic pugilist M64, the Blackeye Galaxy in Coma Berenices, sports a massive shiner of dust that lies asymmetrically across the galaxy’s prominent bulge. Apparently, M64 met another galaxy over a billion years ago and did not so much bat...

Scientists find an ancient source of life-supporting oxygen

Although oxygen is now the most abundant element in our oceans and our atmosphere, comprising about 88.8 percent and 23.1 percent of the mass of the two, respectively, this wasn’t always the case. In actuality, the abundance of oxygen on Earth arose ...
Thursday, August 11, 2022

Unique liquid-mirror telescope comes online in India

At 8,040 feet above sea level (2,450 meters) in Uttarakhand, India, lies a prime site for astronomical observations — Devasthal, 31 (52 kilometers) miles east of the resort town Nainital. Surrounded by the scenic beauty of the lofty Himalayas, Devast...

Artemis 1 launch scheduled for late August

In a few short weeks, NASA will be just a bit closer to establishing a long-term presence on the Moon — a foundational step toward sending astronauts to Mars. Shooting for a launch date of Aug. 29 (pending optimal weather conditions) the Artemi...

Capturing the Moon in high resolution

Few technological advances have impacted astronomy as much as the digital revolution. That’s been true in the professional realm since the 1980s, and it’s been true for amateur astrophotographers like us since the turn of the millennium. ...
Wednesday, August 10, 2022

How to catch the Perseids’ peak this week

Friday, Aug. 12, marks the official peak of the year’s most popular meteor shower: the Perseids. The shower’s radiant, which sits in Perseus the Hero near magnitude 3.8 Miram (Eta [η] Persei), is highest in the early morning hours ...

101 Must-See Cosmic Objects: The Wild Duck Cluster

The summer sky is for the birds — literally. There is Cygnus the Swan, Aquila the Eagle, the Eagle Nebula, and even a flock of wild ducks within the small constellation Scutum the Shield. The Wild Duck Cluster (M11) was discovered in 1681 by ...

Donald Machholz, comet hunter and co-inventor of Messier marathon, dies at age 69

Donald (Don) Machholz, an amateur astronomer who co-invented the Messier marathon and visually discovered 12 comets that now bear his name, died early yesterday morning (Aug. 9) at his home — called “Stargazer Ranch” — in Wiki...
Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Snapshot: JWST captures psychedelic swirl of 'Phantom Galaxy'

For Whovians, this James Webb Space Telescope image of NGC 628 posted on Judy Schmidt’s Flickr account might remind you of the opening credits. But where the TARDIS is flying through the time vortex, JWST is simply doing what it does best: look...

The star that changed the cosmos: M31-V1

You know that M31 (NGC 224) in Andromeda is another galaxy far outside our own Milky Way, don’t you? Of course you do! Everyone knows that. But we haven’t always known it. In fact, we’ve only known for just under a century. Prior ...
Monday, August 8, 2022

101 Must-See Cosmic Objects: Small Magellanic Cloud

Like its companion, the Large Magellanic Cloud (LMC), the Small Magellanic Cloud (SMC) is a remarkable spectacle enjoyed by Southern Hemisphere astronomers. It is visible to the unaided eye as a hazy glow. But at 4° by 3° in size, it is faint...

The dusty days of summer on Mars

The weather on Mars is dusty — especially during the southern hemisphere’s spring and summer, when warmer temperatures produce stronger winds that stir the surface. Spinning columns of air known as dust devils are common, too, propelling ...
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