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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, November 16, 2018

How Gaia will map the galaxy one star at a time

Astronomy is often called the oldest branch of science. Since ancient times, humans have stared at the sky, cataloged its residents, marked new arrivals, and charted the constant stars and wandering planets. Over millennia, huge advances have been m...

Rainfall in the Atacama Desert spells death for microbes

Exterminating rains The rain fell in the Atacama Desert in Chile for the first time in hundreds of years, and it caused a mass extinction. It might seem natural to think that such rains would be followed by blooming flowers and new life. But, an in...

FCC gives SpaceX green light for 7,518 new satellites

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is cultivating a larger presence in space. The private space company has just won permission from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deploy 7,518 satellites into low-Earth orbit. This is thousands more than the ap...

The Sky This Week for November 16 to November 25

Friday, November 16 Asteroid 3 Juno puts on a grand performance this week. Although it reaches opposition tomorrow evening, it appears just as bright tonight. Glowing at magnitude 7.4 — easy to spot with binoculars under a reasonably dark sky ...

What does it take to walk off another world?

A brisk stroll on Mars’ tiny, potato-shaped moon Phobos may just send you tumbling into space, finds a new report in Advances in Space Research. The new research (which admittedly seems a bit superfluous at first) looked at the latest publish...
Thursday, November 15, 2018

Antares rocket will launch cargo from Virginia this Friday

An Impending Launch This week, Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket will launch the Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station. The craft will deliver supplies and scientific equipment to the astronauts on board as part of Northrop...

Looking ahead to the LISA gravitational-wave detector

On November 9, Shane Larson — a research associate professor of physics at Northwestern University and the Associate Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics — gave a lecture titled “The ...

Two free-range planets found roaming the Milky Way in solitude

Astronomers think they’ve just discovered two more rogue planets wandering the Milky Way alone. And according to the new study, which is set for publication in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the planets are likely just the tip of the...

Pluto’s strange ridges formed from ancient glaciers

Scientists have traced strange landforms on Pluto back to their ancient glacial origins. A letter by SETI Institute scientist Oliver White and colleagues shows how ridged landforms on Pluto provide evidence for glaciers on the dwarf planet some 4 bi...

The Leonid meteor shower peaks under a dark sky this weekend

The always reliable Leonid meteor shower reaches its peak Sunday morning, November 18. Once the waxing gibbous Moon sets shortly before 2 a.m. local time, skywatchers will have more than three hours of undisturbed viewing before twilight starts to pa...
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

There’s a frozen super-Earth orbiting Barnard’s star, the second-closest star system

Just six light-years from Earth, the second-closest star system to our Sun hosts a frozen super-Earth, according to new findings by an international team of researchers. Barnard’s star is a small, ancient kind of sun called a red dwarf. And wh...

Massive impact crater beneath Greenland could explain Ice Age climate swing

Most of Earth’s surface has been plotted, mapped and measured. And along the way, scientists have turned up a plethora of craters big and small. But there was always one major crater missing. 12,800 years ago, during the Pleistocene, Earth was...

Maybe next time: Barnard’s star b is likely uninhabitable

Put on your friendliest face and say hello to the newest member of our planetary neighborhood: Barnard’s star b. An international team led by researchers from the Carnegie Institution for Science announced today that they’ve detected an ...

The birds and the bees reacted to the 2017 Great American Eclipse

On August 21, 2017, over half of the population of United States took at least a few minutes out of their busy schedules to glimpse the first total solar eclipse to cross the continental U.S. in nearly 40 years. As many of us gazed upward, stupefied ...

Seek out Comet 64P/Swift-Gehrels tonight

Tonight is a great night to bundle up and seek out Comet 64P/Swift-Gehrels. The comet, which was originally discovered way back in 1889, currently glows between 9th and 10th magnitude and shows up nicely through 4-inch and larger telescopes. Come...
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Small Magellanic Cloud is running out of gas — fast

Just as each successive smartphone companies release includes a higher-resolution camera for sharper, more detailed photos, each new instrument astronomers build reveals the universe in ever-finer detail. In this case, that new instrument is the Comm...

'Ghost' dwarf galaxy found hiding at the edge of the Milky Way

An international team of astronomers can’t fully explain the “ghost” galaxy that they discovered about 130,000 light-years from the edge of the Milky Way. Finding a ghost This galaxy, named Antlia 2 (or Ant 2), is described as a &...

Experience the sound of a martian sunrise

What does a martian sunrise sound like? Now you can find out, as researchers have “sonified” (or turned into sound) an image of the Opportunity rover’s 5,000th sunrise on Mars. The data have been used to create a unique, two-minute ...
Monday, November 12, 2018

A tale of two asteroids: The Phaethon-Pallas connection

Nataša Todorović, a research associate at the Astronomical Observatory Belgrade, Serbia, uses mathematics to study the complex dance between and among asteroids and planets. And now, she’s uncovered a fascinating connection between 2 Pal...

Some of Earth’s water came from a stream of hydrogen long ago

Forming an Ocean When you look out at the ocean, it’s difficult to imagine the swaying body of water being any other way. But, says a team of researchers, some of the H2O that covers much of our planet’s surface was once something very di...

Are the laws of the universe fine-tuned for life?

Humans have often looked at the night sky and wondered if there’s anyone else out there. But stare into that darkness long enough, and many wonder instead: how did we get here? What were the odds, in a universe so enormous and chaotic, that hum...

A ‘dark matter hurricane’ is storming past Earth

There’s a “dark matter hurricane” blowing through our corner of the Milky Way galaxy. Right this second, it’s passing over Earth. And this fast-moving stream could reveal major details about dark matter, a new study finds. Th...
Friday, November 9, 2018

The sky this week for November 9 to November 18

Friday, November 9 Uranus reached opposition and peak visibility near the end of October, and it remains a tempting target all this week. The outer planet appears in the eastern sky after darkness falls and climbs highest in the south around 10:30 p...
Thursday, November 8, 2018

Dust grains in microgravity show a surprising amount of order

Dust is omnipresent throughout homes and offices around the world. But now, scientists are intentionally bringing the mildly inconvenient nuisance all the way up to the International Space Station to study how dust grains arrange themselves in a micr...

What do we know about 'Oumuamua?

On October 19, 2017, astronomers first saw an object from another solar system traveling through our own. Zipping into our solar system from above, the interloper, now known as 1I/2017 U1 (‘Oumuamua), swung around the Sun and shot away again, n...

Comet tails can be shaped by the Sun's magnetic field

It turns out that the sun’s magnetic field can shape and push the dust of a comet’s tail, according to a revelation made possible by one young scientist’s innovative new image-processing technique. Comet Dust In 2007, scientists w...
Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Tonight's New Moon makes way for M34

11/7/2018New Moon occurs at 11:02 a.m. EST. At its new phase, the Moon crosses the sky with the Sun and so remains hidden in our star’s glare. With the Moon out of the night sky, it’s a perfect time to explore some deep-sky objects. One...

Ultra-hot metals swirl around this highly magnetic white dwarf

Some 1,200 light-years from Earth, an international team of astronomers has discovered an ultra-hot magnetosphere, or magnetic field, surrounding a star that was once much like the Sun. The star, dubbed GALEXJ014636.8+323615, is a white dwarf, the d...

Astronomers spot one of the oldest stars in the entire universe

One of the oldest stars in the universe is quietly hiding out in the Milky Way some 2,000 light-years from Earth. According to a new study published in The Astrophysical Journal, the tiny, 13.5-billion-year-old red dwarf contains barely any heavy ...
Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Interstellar visitor 'Oumuamua is probably not an alien solar sail

‘Oumuamua — a curious, cigar-shaped rock — was the first interstellar space rock ever discovered in our solar system, though scientists debate whether it should be classified as an asteroid or comet. Now, a new study suggests that t...

Infrared laser technology could attract aliens, but probably won’t

If extraterrestrial life exists in our neck of the Milky Way, how would we make our presence known to one another? Could we just shoot a massive, unmistakable signal out into space? As it turns out, this wild-sounding idea could actually be carried ...

NASA's InSight mission picks perfectly dull landing site

On November 26, NASA’s InSight spacecraft will touch down on an exceedingly featureless patch on the Martian surface. According to the InSight team, this plain, boring spot couldn’t be more perfect. The InSight lander aims to study and e...

Catch a glimpse of Mercury just after sunset

Mercury reaches greatest eastern elongation today - the point where it's farthest from Sun in Earth's sky - and climbs highest in the southwestern sky after sunset. Although the innermost planet stands 23° east of the Sun, it barely scrapes the...
Monday, November 5, 2018

The question "Why is the Sun so hot?" still stumps scientists

The fact that the Sun is hot should not be news to a single person. The Sun’s surface is about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which seems toasty enough. But surrounding the Sun is an atmosphere of sorts called the corona. This envelope of superheat...

Temporary lakes once filled and refilled across Mars’ surface

Today, water on Mars is locked in ice deposits or held in deep underground lakes. But water once flowed across the planet’s surface, and researchers have found further evidence of its presence on the Red Planet. A new study reveals that the He...

IAU vote recommends changing the name of Hubble’s law

The Hubble law has a new suggested name, as members of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) have voted to recommend that the law now be known as the Hubble-Lemaître law. The Hubble law, as it is typically known, describes the effect in w...
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