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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.

Monday, May 16, 2022

How to see noctilucent clouds this spring and summer

Summer is a time when many amateur astronomers go into a kind of hibernation. Depending on your latitude, the night sky doesn’t get dark enough to see the faint stars and beautiful deep-sky objects like galaxies, nebulae and star clusters very ...

101 Must-See Cosmic Objects: The Sombrero Galaxy

Dust is a common component of spiral galaxies. Astronomers believe this dust is carbon- or silicate-rich and no larger than 0.25 micron wide. It doesn’t dramatically affect the brightness of galaxies except in cases where they appear nearly edg...

Say hello to Sagittarius A*, the black hole at the center of the Milky Way

On May 12, 2022, astronomers on the Event Horizon Telescope team released an image of a black hole called Sagittarius A* that lies at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Chris Impey, an astronomer at the University of Arizona, explains how the team g...
Friday, May 13, 2022

The Sky This Week: Watch the Super Flower Blood Moon Eclipse

Friday, May 13 Enjoy Friday the 13th with an object pulled from Astronomy columnist Stephen James O’Meara’s Ghost Hunt. Although this fun challenge is meant for the Halloween season, plenty of objects on the list are visible in the spring...

101 Must-See Cosmic Objects: The Horsehead Nebula

One of the most prized telescopic dark nebulae is the Horsehead Nebula in Orion. Its widespread popularity comes from photographic images, not its visual impact at the eyepiece. This magnificent celestial bust of a horse’s head — like a k...
Thursday, May 12, 2022

The history of Sagittarius A*, the Milky Way's supermassive black hole

Before everyone knew about the giant black hole lurking in the center of our Milky Way galaxy, was just an exceptionally bright source of radio emission. But since the discovery of Sagittarius A* (pronounced “Sagittarius A-star”), the bla...

Black hole at center of Milky Way imaged for first time

In a triumph of observation and data processing, astronomers at the Event Horizon Telescope have captured the first ever picture of the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. The black hole is named Sagittarius A* (pronounced ...

What makes supermassive black holes like Sagittarius A* shine?

Black holes are, by definition, places where gravity is so strong, not even light can escape. So, they’re black — dark — and impossible to image. Right? As evidenced by the Event Horizon Telescope’s success, we can image bl...
Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Cosmic fossils: What meteorites reveal about our solar system

In July 1969, the crew of the Apollo 11 brought back nearly 48 pounds (22 kilograms) of pristine lunar rocks from the most incredible — and expensive — rock-collecting expedition in history. NASA had state-of-the-art clean laboratories an...

Can we protect Earth from an asteroid speeding toward us?

The most famous asteroid to collide with Earth is the Chicxulub crater, which hit the Yucatán Peninsula 65 million years ago. It’s known for wiping out the dinosaurs, along with three quarters of life on the planet. Other huge craters like the Vredef...

101 Must-See Cosmic Objects: Omega Centauri

The most glorious of all globular clusters is Omega Centauri. (NGC 5139 is its more mundane designation.) It’s the 24th-brightest “star” in Centaurus, which is the ninth largest of 88 constellations. It was noted in Ptolemy’s ...
Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Should Earthlings blast out our location to the cosmos?

If a person is lost in the wilderness, they have two options. They can search for civilization, or they could make themselves easy to spot by building a fire or writing HELP in big letters. For scientists interested in the question of whether intelli...

The northern lights: A history of aurora sightings

Throughout history, humans have gazed in awe at the astronomical wonder that is the aurora borealis. We’ve wondered what it is and told stories about the lights that shimmered above. The Finnish name for the the northern lights is revontulet, meaning...
Monday, May 9, 2022

What does space sound like?

What do you hear when you look into the night sky? If no one had ever seen a movie or television show about space, would we all imagine a different soundtrack in our minds? If there was a way to translate the emotional experience of looking into t...

101 Must-See Cosmic Objects: Mizar and Alcor

For most people living in the Northern Hemisphere, the first double star we notice is Mizar (Zeta [ζ] Ursae Majoris), the middle star in the Big Dipper’s handle. Located just to the northeast is Mizar’s faint cohort, Alcor (80 Ursae ...
Friday, May 6, 2022

Understanding the origins of ORCs, odd radio circles

Astronomers recently uncovered strange radio objects lurking in the deep sky that take on a rather ghostly appearance. The hazy, circular blotches are unlike anything seen before, which is why scientists have dubbed them odd radio circles, or ORCs. F...

The Sky This Week: Catch the Eta Aquariids

Friday, May 6 The Eta Aquariid meteor shower peaks early this morning. The best time to catch its shooting stars is a few hours before dawn, when the radiant in Aquarius is highest in a moonless sky. However, this shower is active through the rest of...

101 Must-See Cosmic Objects: NGC 2516

NGC 2516 is an open star cluster in the southern constellation Carina the Keel. Amateur astronomers refer to it as the Southern Beehive because of its resemblance to M44 (see #94), the open cluster in Cancer the Crab. It lies some 1,300 light-years a...

Snapshot: The James Webb Space Telescope is fully focused

The James Webb Space Telescope has taken one more step toward full operations with the April 28 announcement that the observatory is now fully focused — and it has the images to prove it. The engineering images above come from each of JWST&rsqu...
Thursday, May 5, 2022

Astronomers find first triple black widow system

Black widow binaries get their name from the infamous spiders who devour their mates after copulation (although this tends to be more of an exception than the rule). These binary systems consist of a fast-spinning neutron star, known as a pulsar, alo...

Rocket Lab catches falling booster with helicopter, then drops it

Rocket Lab’s latest Electron mission successfully deployed 34 satellites into orbit this week. And as the rocket's first stage booster parachuted back to Earth, the company used a helicopter to latch onto the parachute line. The helicopter pilo...
Wednesday, May 4, 2022

101 Must-See Objects: NGC 3532

If you love common names for deep-sky objects, NGC 3532 in the constellation Carina the Keel will give you all you want. Various amateur astronomers through the years have called it the Firefly Party Cluster, the Football Cluster, the Wishing Well Cl...

Explore the stars of Star Trek from your backyard

Many readers of Astronomy can point back to televised science fiction as their first introduction to the universe. For some — like me — it was The Outer Limits, which had a brief run starting in 1963. Others may have been influenced by Th...
Tuesday, May 3, 2022

The origin of Earth's helium

In the beginning, all was dust and gas. For a while, anyway — until a great gas cloud, called the solar nebula, in what would become our solar system gradually condensed. Then came the Sun. Eventually, the closer, hotter protoplanets collected heavy ...

Total solar eclipse at the bottom of the world

“It’s going to be like going to another planet.” Every one of my friends who had been to Antarctica said this same thing. And it was true. In December, I found myself, along with a group of about 50 astronomy enthusiasts, at the ...
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