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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, October 22, 2021

The Sky This Week: Spot the moment Venus reaches dichotomy

Friday, October 22 In the late 1700s, Charles Messier created his famous catalog to identify objects that he didn’t want to mistake for comets. Thus, most of the entries in his list are small and appear fuzzy at low power. One such object is...

Astronomers model the dog-bone asteroid, Kleopatra, like never before

It’s true: 124 million miles (200 kilometers) might be a long way for your dog to fetch this cosmic bone. But thanks in part to two powerful telescopes, astronomers were able to inspect the dog-bone shaped asteroid Kleopatra from afar, revealin...
Thursday, October 21, 2021

Neutron stars: A cosmic gold mine

It isn’t a secret that humanity and everything around us is made of star stuff. But not all stars create elements equally. Sure, regular stars can create the basic elements: helium, carbon, neon, oxygen, silicon, and iron. But it takes the coll...

What colors are the planets in our solar system? And why are they so different?

The planets of the solar system are varied in their appearance. Mercury is slate gray while Venus is pearly white, Earth a vibrant blue, and Mars a dusky red. Even the gas giants are different, Neptune and Uranus an opaque blue, while Jupiter and Sat...
Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Ask Astro: Can a black hole form without a parent star?

Can a black hole form without a parent star? Rich Livitski Seal Beach, California A few different kinds of black holes exist. First are stellar-mass black holes, which can range from 3.3 to 100 times the mass of the Sun. These are the low...

How doomed matter reveals the inner secrets of black holes

Black holes are regions of austere darkness, gobbling up everything — even light — that strays too close. But the environment immediately surrounding a black hole is not so dark. Astronomers often spot copious amounts of light streaming f...
Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Ask Astro: Does Mars have its own North Star?

With all the progress toward putting a human on Mars, I was wondering: What is the North Star for someone on Mars? Ralph Winrich Dunkirk, Wisconsin On Earth, the North Star is defined as the star toward which Earth’s north rotational po...

A satellite in orbit spies another satellite being launched into space

For 50 years, Landsat satellites have been observing the accelerating changes to our planet, returning many millions of images of the land and coastlines. On September 27th, the latest in the Landsat family, Landsat 9, was successfully launched into...
Monday, October 18, 2021

Snapshot: Cassiopeia A and the elements lurking within it

This Funfetti-like bloom called Cassiopeia A shows the aftermath of a supernova, or a massive star explosion, about 11,000 light-years from Earth. The vibrant colors added to this image denote the elements detected within it; for example, the blue bl...
Saturday, October 16, 2021

Soyuz 23: How two cosmonauts almost died after landing back on Earth

From the 1960s on, both American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts underwent so-called survival training. This was to prepare them for the unlikely event that they landed in harsh or remote terrain, forcing them to fend for themselves while awaiting r...
Friday, October 15, 2021

Ask Astro: How much of the universe can we observe?

What is the difference between the observable universe and the whole universe? Vitthal Nath Jharkhand, India About 13.8 billion years ago, the Big Bang kicked off the universe, filling it with matter, dark matter, and dark energy. Since then, ...

Martian floods filled Jezero Crater, Perseverance finds

NASA’s Perseverance rover has spent the last eight months in the dry, forlorn landscape of Jezero Crater. But analysis of some of the rover’s first images have confirmed that roughly 3.7 billion years ago, the crater was home to an ancien...

The Sky This Week: Observe the Moon

Friday, October 15 The Moon passes 4° south of Jupiter in Capricornus at 6 A.M. EDT. You can’t see them then — both are below the horizon — but they are visible in the sky tonight after sunset. By then, the Moon has shifted over...
Thursday, October 14, 2021

Earth's equatorial bulge shapes the planet's physics

(Inside Science) -- Earth might look like a sphere, but it's actually an "oblate spheroid" -- the planet is slightly squished, making the circumference of the equator bigger than the circumference through the poles. Clouds, ocean curren...

Astronomers get a 3D look at nearby stellar nurseries

About a dozen stellar nurseries reside in the solar neighborhood. Perhaps the most thoroughly studied among them are Taurus and Perseus molecular clouds. Countless celestial cartographers have scrutinized the two regions, filling their maps with star...
Wednesday, October 13, 2021

James Webb Space Telescope will look back to the cosmic Dark Ages

Some have called NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope the “telescope that ate astronomy.” It is the most powerful space telescope ever built and a complex piece of mechanical origami that has pushed the limits of human engineering. On Dec. 18, 2021, aft...

Ask Astro: Will dust storms foil our plans to retrieve Perseverance’s samples?

Perseverance will collect samples in small metal tubes that it will leave on the surface of Mars for future transport to Earth. Isn’t there the risk of the tubes being covered by dust storms, making their recovery impossible? João Migu...
Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Swarm of near-Earth comets linked to recent ice giant breakup

The longest-studied comets in our solar system have inspired ancient myths, religious fervor and modern scientific controversies. Now, the discovery of 88 asteroids and meteoroids orbitally aligned with one of them, Comet Encke, suggests that they al...

Henson Crater: Lunar impact site named for Arctic explorer

Tucked between two potential landing sites for NASA’s Artemis program is a large impact crater. And sitting on the permanently shadowed floor of this crater is ice that future astronauts may be able to use for hydration, radiation shielding, an...

How to watch William Shatner journey to space

Beam him up, Bezos. William Shatner, the actor famous for playing Captain James T. Kirk in Star Trek: The Original Series, is going into space at the age of 90. The launch is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 13, at 10 a.m. EST after weather delays earli...
Monday, October 11, 2021

Ask Astro: Why do Saturn’s rings look solid when they’re not?

Why do Saturn’s rings appear perfect, without blemish or irregularity, if they are composed of particles that range from as large as a house next to grains of sand? George Thomas Holtsnider Bremerton, Washington Saturn’s rings are a ...

Perseverance’s first major successes on Mars — an update from mission scientists

In the short time since NASA’s Perseverance rover landed in Mars’ Jezero Crater on Feb. 18, 2021, it’s already made history. At the moment, Mars and the Earth are on opposite sides of the Sun, and the two planets cannot communicate ...
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