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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, July 25, 2016

Gravitational vortex detected around black hole

Like the whirlpool created by stirring a cup of coffee with one of those tiny straws, a spinning black hole creates a “gravitational vortex” in the space-time around it. A European Space Agency (ESA) project recently detected the effects...

How a weird Mars rock may be solid proof of an ancient oxygen atmosphere

I look at rocks on Mars for a living—a lot of rocks. Because of this, I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing what to expect and what not to expect when analyzing the chemical make-up of a Martian rock. You expect to find lots of basalt, the b...
Friday, July 22, 2016

JAXA may remake its X-ray observatory Hitomi for a 2020 launch

Earlier this year, the X-ray astronomy community experienced the highs of a successful observatory launch followed only a month later with the lows of that spacecraft’s demise. This was the Japanese-led Hitomi X-ray space telescope, and it was ...

Another dark matter search comes up empty

The world’s most sensitive dark matter detector, the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) detector, just completed its 20 month search for the "missing mass" of the universe, coming up empty. At the International Dark Matter Conference (IDM 2016) ...
Thursday, July 21, 2016

Kepler hauls in 100 new planets in its phoenix-like new mission

NASA's Kepler space telescope is a trooper. Even with a broken positioning system, the telescope just discovered 104 new planets, including four Earth-like planets in the same solar system. A study published this week in the Astrophysical Journal Sup...

Here's your chance to see inside the Apollo 11 Command Module

To commemorate the 47th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, the Smithsonian Institute has created a high-resolution 3-D scan of the “Columbia”, the command module, which carried astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” A...
Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Planetary scientists used a rare conjunction to hunt for habitability on two promising exoplanets

TRAPPIST-1 may well be one of the closest stars to look for life in our own backyard, thanks to three planets in its habitable zone. Now, we’re one step closer to understanding if those planets could hold life, thanks to a new study published ...

What the man who first looked for microbes on Mars has to say about the Viking anniversary

Forty years ago today, the first of two landing probes of NASA’s ProjectViking touched down on planet Mars. Discover contributor Dr. David Warmflash spoke with Dr. Gilbert Levin, whose Labeled Release (LR) experiment was one of three instrument...

The Moon still carries the scars from an ancient protoplanet impact

The Moon was struck by an object in the past, scientists have no doubt about that. What they didn’t know, until recently, is that the Moon may have been struck by pieces of a proto-planet. In a new study in Nature, professor Peter Schultz fro...
Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How astronomers used Twitter to understand our galaxy

A new understanding of our galaxy's structure began in an unlikely way: on Twitter. A research effort sparked by tweets led scientists to confirm that the Milky Way's central bulge of stars forms an "X" shape. The newly published study uses data from...

The largest radio telescope in the southern hemisphere returns its first image

The MeerKAT First Light image of the sky, released today by Minister of Science and Technology, Naledi Pandor, shows unambiguously that MeerKAT is already the best radio telescope of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. Array Release 1 (AR1) being ce...

Here's why we can't just rocket nuclear waste into the sun

In Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, the Man of Steel rounds up all the world's nukes and throws them into the sun. It's a nice idea — and indeed every few years someone suggests throwing all our garbage in there — but there's one problem...
Monday, July 18, 2016

Here are NASA's near-future plans for our solar system

NASA's Juno is now poised to shine a spotlight on the origins and interior structure of the largest planet in our solar system. As we wait for Juno's first close-up images of Jupiter (to be taken Aug. 27 during the spacecraft's next pass by the plane...

How Venus' cold cloud layers can reveal the world below

Venus is famously hot, due to an extreme greenhouse effect which heats its surface to temperatures as high as 450 degrees Celsius. The climate at the surface is oppressive; as well as being hot, the surface environment is dimly lit, due to a thick bl...
Friday, July 15, 2016

Some planets ripe for life may be doomed by billions of years of violent collisions

Early planetary systems are violent, but eventually they settle down, giving planets the chance to stabilize and, in some cases, life a chance to emerge. But new research shows that some established stars have more collisions than anticipated, sugges...

Chandra witnesses the aftermath of a violent stellar merger

Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are some of the most violent and energetic events in the universe. Although these events are the most luminous explosions in the universe, a new study using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory, NASA's Swift satellite and other te...
Thursday, July 14, 2016

New Horizons celebrates a year since it flew past Pluto

Last year, we celebrated the Year of Pluto, in celebration of NASA's fly-by of the dwarf planet on July 14, 2015. The first close-up image was returned on the 14th, with the flyby taking 22 hours. During that time, the craft was silent, designed to ...

Astronomers mapped 1.2 million galaxies in a hunt for dark energy

In the quest for dark energy, astronomers have created an unprecedented 3D map of 1.2 million galaxies in a volume of about 650 cubic billion light years. Hundreds of astronomers from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III) and the Max Planck ...
Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The first view of a water “snowline” in a protoplanetary disk

It looks like winter is coming to a distant, still forming solar system thanks to the discovery of watery "snowlines." Snowlines are a ring of dust and debris where it is cold and far enough away from the host star where water, carbon monoxide, a...

NASA captures the Moon crossing the face of the Earth, for the second time

The camera aboard NASA and NOAA's Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite captured images of the moon as it passed in front of the sunlit side of the Earth for the second time. "For the second time in the life of DSCOVR, the moon moved bet...

This is the first image Juno has sent back since it began orbiting Jupiter

On July 4, space enthusiasts awaited word that the Juno probe had entered orbit around Jupiter. The journey was perilous, as the craft was going incredibly fast. Once that was done, it turned its solar panels towards the sun and began its first orbit...
Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A new look at the Orion Nebula nets a bevy of planetary-mass objects

The Orion Nebula (also known as M42) is one of the brightest nebulae in the night sky even visible to the naked eye; it appears as the middle "star" in the constellation Orion's sword. This nebula is one of the most photographed objects in the night ...

Some of the first supernovae may be looking a little blue

Sorry to hear you're blue, nebula, but don't worry. There's a good reason — you probably came from one of the first stars. About 100 million years after the universe burst to life in the Big Bang, the two existing elements — hydrogen and ...

Was Juno the fastest spacecraft ever? Only kind of.

Juno is the fastest spacecraft to enter orbit around another planet. But is it really the fastest spacecraft ever? When it comes to velocity, that depends on how you measure it. When the Juno spacecraft entered orbit around Jupiter on July 4, 2016, ...
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