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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.

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Sky This Week from March 22 to 31

Friday, March 22 March evenings offer an excellent chance to see the zodiacal light. From the Northern Hemisphere, late winter and early spring are great times to observe this elusive glow after sunset. It appears slightly fainter than the Milky Way,...

NASA is sending a helicopter to Mars

When the Mars 2020 rover lands on the Red Planet in early 2021, it will carry with it a small helicopter, the first human craft to fly on another planet. Until now, Mars has hosted orbiters, landers, and rovers, but no flying machines. The Mars helic...
Thursday, March 21, 2019

This ‘cannonball’ pulsar is racing at escape speed across the Milky Way

Astronomers discovered a pulsar, a kind of zombie star, racing across the galaxy so quickly that it could get from Earth to the Moon in six minutes flat. The dead star has a tail pointing back toward the remnant of a supernova that exploded 10,000 ye...

Space station astronauts prep for two spacewalks in one week

On March 22, two astronauts will take the first spacewalk of Expedition 59 in order to upgrade aging batteries on the International Space Station. The astronauts will be Nick Hague and Anne McClain, and it will be the first spacewalk for both of them...

Boeing’s Starliner test flight delayed by months

The schedule for Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft has slipped again, and the company will no longer launch an uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station in April, Reuters has reported. The flight is being pushed back to August. Starli...
Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Israeli Moon lander to touch down near Apollo landing sites next month

Beresheet, the first privately launched Moon lander, has a site selected — and it’s in a fairly familiar locale. Scientists at Israeli spaceflight company SpaceIL, working with Jim Head of Brown University — who also worked on the ...
Tuesday, March 19, 2019

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket may launch first commercial flight soon

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket may fly again as soon as April 7, if the reporting of CNBC proves accurate. The news outlet cites anonymous sources in its story, and SpaceX so far hasn't confirmed the launch. The rocket’s first and last f...

OSIRIS-REx caught asteroid Bennu ejecting bursts of strange, high-speed particles

Right now, there are two missions exploring asteroids in our solar system. NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission is revealing surprises at its asteroid home called Bennu. It arrived there not long after Japan’s similar Hayabusa2 sample-return mission...

Hayabusa2 results hint asteroid Ryugu was broken off larger space rock

The Japanese Space Agency’s (JAXA) Hayabusa2 spacecraft swooped down and collected a first sample from the asteroid Ryugu on February 22. And now JAXA is ready to make an even more dramatic sample collection in April when it uses explosives to ...

NASA's first Mars rover landed near an ancient sea, new research suggests

Mars may be a dry, cold planet today, but it was once a warmer, wetter one. NASA’s Opportunity rover was the first rover to find solid evidence of water on Mars — but years before Opportunity’s discoveries, NASA’s first martia...

A quasar-powered storm pours from the Teacup galaxy

Your nighttime cup of chamomile might help you go to sleep, but this turbulent teacup is far from soothing. Sitting inside a galaxy known as the “Teacup,” nicknamed after its distinct silhouette, lies a storm that’s causing quite t...
Monday, March 18, 2019

What are tholins? The mysterious substance that turned Ultima Thule red

On New Year’s Day, NASA’s New Horizons probe streaked by a tiny world dubbed MU69, or Ultima Thule, the farthest object humankind has studied up close. With most of the data still on the spacecraft waiting to be transmitted, scientists ar...

It turns out this Turkish meteorite is a free sample from asteroid Vesta

Twenty-two million years ago, something crashed into the asteroid Vesta, carving out a large crater and throwing the debris high into space. In 2015, a three-foot meteor streaked through the sky above Turkey before fragmenting into pieces and falling...
Friday, March 15, 2019

The Sky This Week from March 15 to 24

Friday, March 15 The Big Dipper’s familiar shape rides high in the northeast on March evenings. The spring sky’s finest binocular double star marks the bend of the Dipper’s handle. Mizar shines at 2nd magnitude, some six times brigh...

Meet Chesley Bonestell, the most important space artist you’ve probably never heard of

Over the last half century, spacecraft have visited every planet and their major moons, as well as two dwarf planets and more than a dozen asteroids and comets. Thanks to high-res images, we know these worlds intimately and can appreciate what makes ...

The Mars InSight lander is stuck. NASA's hacking a fix with Earthly clones

Last month, NASA’s Mars InSight lander started digging into the Red Planet. Its HP3 (Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package) instrument was designed to burrow and measure Mars from underground, uncovering new geological evidence about how he...
Thursday, March 14, 2019

How high-speed stars escape the galaxy

Stars bob and weave in and out of the Milky Way Galaxy’s spiral arms like cars speeding through rush-hour traffic. But a snapshot of the nighttime sky makes it appear that these luminaries are as fixed as the great pyramids of Egypt. Of the est...

NASA's Orion crew capsule may launch on a commercial rocket

For years, NASA has been working on their massive Space Launch System (SLS), a next-generation heavy lift rocket that could launch cargo and astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit for the first time since the Apollo Program. They’ve been developing ...

To celebrate Pi Day tonight, seek out the circular constellation Corona Borealis

By pinpointing this brilliant star Arcturus tonight, you can begin tracing a constellation perfectly suited for observation on March 14 — also known as Pi Day. Pi day, which was designated by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2009, celebra...

Astronauts set for 3:14 p.m. EDT launch to the International Space Station

Three new crewmembers will join the International Space Station this week, launching today in a Soyuz vessel from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 3:14 p.m. EDT. The two NASA astronauts, Nick Hague and Christina Koch, will fly with Russian cosmon...
Wednesday, March 13, 2019

This speeding star is escaping our galaxy — and it’s not like the others

The Milky Way Galaxy contains billions of stars. Though the vast majority of these are bound to the galaxy by gravity, astronomers have found a few tens of stars that are not orbiting but instead fleeing our galaxy at extreme speeds. These hyperveloc...

Mars Opportunity rover left us with one last beautiful panorama of Mars

Last June, space exploration enthusiasts from across the world collectively held their breath as a global dust storm completely enveloped Mars. They did so not because our view of the Red Planet's surface was obscured, but instead because a go-kart-s...

Scientists used IBM's quantum computer to reverse time, possibly breaking a law of physics.

The universe is getting messy. Like a glass shattering to pieces or a single wave crashing onto the shore, the universe’s messiness can only move in one direction – toward more chaos and disorder. But scientists think that, at least for a...
Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Practice Mars landings are teaching researchers how to work in space

Imagine astronauts on Mars, tasked with picking rock samples that will be used by scientists to search for signs of life. But they can only transport a limited number back to Earth. What should they look for? Are some types of rocks better than other...

A trio of bright planets line up for a show Wednesday morning

Get ready to turn your attention to the sky Wednesday morning, when you'll spot a trio of bright, evenly spaced planets climbing up from the horizon. The three morning planets — Jupiter, Saturn, and Venus — appear equally spaced before ...

50 years later, NASA just handed scientists untouched Apollo Moon rocks

For nearly half a century, three small rocks have sat quietly, waiting for a world that could appreciate them. The astronauts who picked up these rocks on the Moon’s surface didn’t know them to be any more special than the hundreds of pou...

Astronomers spot massive twin stars nestled close together

Researchers have found two massive young stars nestled closer together than anything astronomers have seen so far. By studying PDS 27 and its companion, located about 8,000 light-years from Earth, astronomers hope to learn more about how stars like t...
Monday, March 11, 2019

NASA budget proposal funds Mars sample return, slashes other missions

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine was at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Monday to talk about the proposed NASA budget for 2020. While Bridenstine referred to the Trump administration’s proposed NASA budget as “strong,” and emph...

Hubble spies a dazzling collision between two galaxies in Hercules

The Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy are the two biggest players in our galactic neighborhood. With each galaxy weighing in at roughly a trillion times the mass of the Sun, they serve as the gravitational anchors that prevent our Local Group &mdash...

Daylight Savings Time makes Venus a tempting target

With the advent of Daylight Savings Time, it becomes a bit easier to view Venus in the morning sky this week. Before Daylight Savings Time began, the brilliant planet rose shortly after 4:30 a.m. local time and the Sun overwhelmed it by 6 a.m. Now, ...
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