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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.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

To track greenhouse gases, this nonprofit wants to launch its own satellite

EDF’s MethaneSAT The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has granted two companies $1.5 million in contracts to design a privately-funded satellite that will track methane emissions around the globe. EDF announced Jan 10 that the companies will compete ...

Chang'e 4 sends another trove of images from the Moon's far side

Success for Chang’e 4 The far side of the moon is finally coming into focus. China’s Chang’e 4 mission became the first to land on the far side of the Moon earlier this month, and it sent back an initial, though blurry, picture. Now...

Tonight, asteroid Eros will make its closest approach to Earth until 2056

Near-Earth asteroid 433 Eros makes its closest approach to Earth since 2012 today, when it comes within 19.4 million miles (31.2 million kilometers) of our planet. Throughout the week, asteroid Eros glows at 9th magnitude, making it bright enough t...

Plants have been grown on the Moon for the very first time

Lunar plants There’s life on the Moon! Plant life, that is. Cotton seeds have reportedly just sprouted in an experiment aboard China’s Chang’e 4 Moon lander. The mission became the first to touch down on the surface of the far side ...
Monday, January 14, 2019

A third of all galaxy clusters have gone unnoticed until now

Hidden clusters The universe is far from homogenous. Rather, stars, and the galaxies that contain them, clump together in some places, brought together by their shared gravitational attraction. Astronomers have historically found clusters of galaxies...

This Russian startup wants to put billboards in space. Astronomers aren’t impressed

Imagine this: you’ve just fled from the city to your nearest national park to gaze deeply into the infinite abyss of space and contemplate how your own existence fits into the curtain of the universe. Then, out of the corner of your eye, you se...
Friday, January 11, 2019

The Sky This Week from January 11 to January 20

Friday, January 11 Although Comet 46P/Wirtanen appeared brightest in mid-December, it currently glows at 6th magnitude and shows up nicely through binoculars or a telescope. This periodic visitor lies among the background stars of western Ursa Major,...

Hunt the Lion Cub tonight

Have you ever seen the constellation Leo Minor the Lion Cub? If you answered, “No,” tonight could be your night. To seek out the small and faint constellation, head out around midnight local time. But don’t try before that because ...

Hubble takes second-most detailed image ever

Hubble just released its second-largest image ever: the Triangulum Galaxy, and it’s a stunner. While Andromeda has been holding the top spot since being imaged back in 2015, this zoomable, roughly 665 million-pixel composite is nothing to sneez...
Thursday, January 10, 2019

In a first, astronomers witness the birth of black hole or neutron star

Some 200 million years ago, not long after dinosaurs first appeared on Earth, a star collapsed in a nearby galaxy. The star’s collapse triggered an ultra-bright explosion that sent radiation racing across the cosmos. The light finally reached e...

Astronomers clock a black hole spinning at half the speed of light

Black holes are massive beasts that annihilate anything that dares to cross them. We don’t know a whole lot about these invisible, terrifying bodies, but astronomers have found a new way to study their mysterious behavior. By observing the X-r...

SpaceX's Crew Dragon might launch next month

Crew Dragon Launch In just about a month, SpaceX’s first Crew Dragon spacecraft might launch for the first time on an uncrewed orbital test flight to the International Space Station, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk stated on Jan 5 on Twitter. Previously, ...

Conditions for life might exist on new planet discovered around Barnard's star

Late last year, astronomers announced that they’d found a super-Earth around Barnard’s star – one of the closest suns to our own. The discovery of a planet just six light-years away was enough to excite astronomers and the public al...

TESS discovers a dense sub-Neptune exoplanet, plus an Earth-sized world to boot

Within just a few months of beginning its primary science mission, NASA's planet-hunting Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) already has identified over 50 exoplanet candidates. Now, TESS has discovered and confirmed one of the densest sub-N...
Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Repeating fast radio burst detected for second time in history

Repeating FRB For just the second time, scientists have recorded the repeat of a mysterious cosmic flash know as a fast radio burst (FRB). This remarkable observation could help scientists to better understand this phenomenon and where these bursts o...

SpaceX's Starship prototype could make first test flight in just weeks

Testing the Starship SpaceX is on the verge of launching a prototype of the spacecraft that could one day carry humans to the Moon and Mars. Over the weekend, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shared on Twitter on Saturday morning (Jan 5) that the flight-test ver...

Stars like our Sun turn into crystals late in life

Stars like our sun can turn into crystals in the final stages of their lives, bringing a whole new meaning to those glittering jewels in the sky. Astronomers from the University of Warwick say they’ve found the first direct evidence that white ...
Tuesday, January 08, 2019

These exoplanets are forever half dark and shrouded in clouds

Cloudy hot Jupiters “Hot Jupiters” exoplanets that resemble our own Jupiter, except for being, well, hot, have another side to them. We mean this literally: The planets usually don’t rotate, so one side is always facing their star, ...

Even in space, microbes continue to evolve

Space station microbes Genetic mutations are life’s ace in the hole. When confronted with challenging environments, species will adapt over time, incorporating beneficial genetic alterations into their DNA to grow new and useful traits. It&rsqu...
Monday, January 07, 2019

Self-driving rovers could be the future of exploration on Mars

The Future of Martian Bots Mars has been home to robots since the 1990s. Rolling over the rocky terrain, martian robots have endured dust storms, radiation and the hardships of life on the Red Planet. New software from the UK could allow these robots...

Exploring glaciers on Mercury, a planet plagued by boiling temperatures

The ice of Mercury Mercury, the closest planet to our Sun and the second hottest, also has glaciers. That may come as a surprise, but it’s due to the fact that the planet has no tilt, and so the bottom of some deep craters near the poles are le...

Feeling blue? Seek out Neptune tonight

Although relatively nearby Venus made a brilliant appearance before dawn yesterday, tonight, a more distant planetary neighbor will strut its stuff: Neptune. When it comes to brightness, Neptune is on the other end of the planetary spectrum from Ven...

"Orion's Dragon" captured in 3D by NASA's airborne observatory

NASA/JPL-Caltech While flying more than seven miles above the surface of our planet, NASA's Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) recently fixated on Earth's nearest star-forming region: the Orion Nebula. Based on the data collect...
Friday, January 04, 2019

The Sky This Week for January 4 to 13

Friday, January 4 Although people in the Northern Hemisphere experienced the shortest day of the year two weeks ago (at the winter solstice December 21), the Sun has continued to rise slightly later with each passing day. That trend stops this morni...
Thursday, January 03, 2019

China's Chang'e-4 mission lands on Moon's far side, snaps first image

Making Lunar History For the first time in history, a spacecraft has landed on the far side of the Moon. At 10:26 am, Jan. 3 Beijing time, China’s Chang’e-4 spacecraft made a successful soft landing in the Von Kármán crater ...
Wednesday, January 02, 2019

China’s Chang’e-4 mission is ready to make its historic landing on the far side of the Moon

Landing on the Far Side Nearly a month after launching from Earth, China’s Chang’e-4 mission is set to make a historic lunar landing. The spacecraft’s exact landing time has not yet been specified. But, if all goes according to plan...

New Horizons’ first close-up pictures of Ultima Thule reveal a binary world

NASA’s New Horizons’ team released the first close-up images from Ultima Thule on Wednesday afternoon. Even at the speed of light, signals from the outer solar system take a long time to reach Earth; however, the pictures were well worth ...

Ultima Thule emerges as contact binary, "cosmic snowman," in new spacecraft images

History has been made at the New Horizons operations headquarters at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab on January 2, 2019. The team unveiled new images received late in the day yesterday, and it’s now clear that Ultima Thule, a distant, icy...
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