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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, July 19, 2019

The Sky This Week from July 19 to 28

Friday, July 19 The Sun’s outermost major planet, Neptune, rises around 11 p.m. local daylight time. But the best time to look for this ice giant world comes when it climbs nearly halfway to the zenith as morning twilight commences. The magnitu...

Musk confirms Starhopper survived fire

In a series of Twitter responses, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk confirmed Starhopper, the prototype for the company’s next generation of spacecraft, survived what appeared to be an explosion during a recent test. On Tuesday, July 16, Starhopper had und...

Dark stars: The seeds of supermassive black holes?

Powered by dark matter, dark stars are hypothetical objects that may have inhabited the early universe. If they existed, these mysterious beasts would not only have been the first stars to form in the cosmos, they also might explain how supermassive ...
Thursday, July 18, 2019

If the Apollo 11 astronauts had died, here’s the speech Nixon would have read

It’s easy, amid the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, to see it as an inevitable success. NASA had been preparing for the task for years, ever since President John F. Kennedy made his famous speech at Rice Univ...

Compound in red wine, resveratrol, could help astronauts walk on Mars

The same stuff that’s been linked to red wine’s heart-health benefits could also someday help astronauts walk on Mars. In a new study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, researchers say that resveratrol, a compound found in ...

Three new ISS crew members to launch on July 20

Exactly 50 years after the first humans stepped foot on the moon, three astronauts will blast off into space to join the current crew on the International Space Station. On July 20, NASA astronaut Drew Morgan, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut ...

The truth is out there: Using VERITAS to search for E.T.

Traditionally, the hunt for intelligent life in the universe has focused on radio signals from far off worlds. But scientists are turning to more varied types of signals, acknowledging that we have very little idea how a truly alien life-form might c...
Wednesday, July 17, 2019

SpaceX says it knows why Crew Dragon exploded

Almost three months after SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule blew up during a test on April 20, the results of the investigation place blame on a leak and a faulty valve. According to a report released by SpaceX, the “anomaly” in the test...

Protests resume in Hawaii with start of Thirty Meter Telescope construction

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) has had a tumultuous start. Set to be the world’s largest visible light telescope, construction was slated to begin in 2015 near the peak of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea. But protests over construction on a mountain...

Scientists start developing a mini gravitational wave detector

In 2015, scientists made history by detecting the first gravitational waves — ripples in space-time predicted by Albert Einstein a century earlier. The waves were created by the merger of two black holes, each one much larger than the sun. And ...

SpaceX’s Starhopper Engulfed by Fireball During Test

On Tuesday, SpaceX ran its second test of Starhopper, the prototype for their enormous future passenger spacecraft. The static fire test was meant to measure the Raptor engines that power the craft. But at the end of the five second test, Starhopper ...
Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Constant confusion: New studies deepen mystery of universe’s expansion

If you’re confused by modern cosmology, you’re not alone. Cosmologists themselves are confused, and two new results, using very different methods, add to their collective bewilderment. The results are measurements of how fast the universe...

Using "frozen smoke" to build terraforming domes on Mars

(Inside Science) — Shields made of a material so light it is sometimes called “frozen smoke” could help make areas on Mars livable, a new study suggests. Currently, the surface of Mars is too cold for water to stay liquid, often tho...

NASA bets on spacecraft that can 3D print and self-assemble in orbit

Putting a satellite in space is news of the past, but launching a spacecraft that can 3-D print and self-assemble is a story of the future. NASA is now betting on the technology being ready for prime time as early as 2022. Last week, the space agency...

ISS mouse experiment tests how the body adapts to living on the Moon

Astronauts living on the International Space Station (ISS) spend hours working out every day just to avoid losing serious muscle mass and bone density in microgravity. But will such precautions be needed to live on worlds that are simply lower in gra...
Monday, July 15, 2019

Ploonets: When a planet's moon goes rogue

Astronomers can’t stop debating about the definition of a planet (see: Pluto). But one thing is for sure — there are a lot of objects that skirt the line between two types of cosmic bodies. Now, researchers are adding a new kind of bou...

SpaceX may test its massive Starhopper prototype this week

Exploring space on your next family vacation is still a few years in the future. But Elon Musk now says that Starhopper, the prototype for SpaceX’s future passenger spacecraft, could be tested as soon as July 16 at the company’s facility ...
Friday, July 12, 2019

What are intermediate-mass black holes?

Black holes have long served as fodder for science fiction — and for good reason. These unimaginably dense objects contain so much matter trapped in such a small volume that their gravity is strong enough to prevent even light from escaping the...

The Sky This Week from July 12 to 21

Friday, July 12 Observers of the outer solar system can get a good view of Uranus before dawn. The best time to look for it is shortly before twilight begins around 3:30 a.m. local daylight time. Uranus then lies 25° above the eastern horizon amo...

Are these supermassive black holes on a collision course?

By now, merging black holes and the gravitational waves they produce are a scientific surety. Astronomers have observed several black hole mergers, all between stellar-mass black holes less than 100 times the mass of our Sun. But no mergers between s...

NASA built rock climbing robots to scale cliffs on Mars and beyond

LEMUR can climb walls with special gripping feet, and is only one of a suite of climbing NASA robots. NASA/JPL-Caltech NASA has built many adventurous robots that can fly in space, land on alien planets, roll across Martian and lunar terrain, and e...
Thursday, July 11, 2019

Margaret “Hap” Brennecke: The woman who welded Apollo's rockets

By the time she arrived at NASA, Margaret Brennecke, who usually went by the nickname “Hap,” was an old hand at engineering. And when the the Saturn V rocket launched the astronauts of the Apollo program to the Moon, it was in part thanks...

Japanese asteroid mission touches down on Ryugu, collects sample

Hayabusa2’s encounters with asteroid Ryugu have been delightfully action-packed. In February, the Japanese spacecraft collected its first sample by swooping close and firing a bullet into the asteroid’s surface to stir up material it then...
Wednesday, July 10, 2019

What are primordial black holes?

All the black holes that astronomers have seen fall into one of three categories: stellar-mass black holes, intermediate-mass black holes, and supermassive black holes. Each is more massive than our Sun and formed at least hundreds of thousands of ye...

NASA shuts off systems on Voyager 2, saving power for long haul into interstellar space

Launched in 1977, Voyagers 1 and 2 are the longest-running spacecraft, still operating at more than 11 billion miles from home, decades after the end of their nominal goal of exploring the outer solar system planets. They still get their power from t...

India set to launch Moon rover and orbiter

India is expected to launch their second lunar mission, Chandrayaan-2 on July 14. The launch will take up an orbiter, a lander, and a rover, dubbed Pragyan, all designed to study the moon’s little explored south pole. Using the Indian Space Re...
Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Dust storms brew over Mars

ESA/GCP/UPV/EHU Bilbao Near the north pole of Mars, a dust storm has been raging for over a month. The dark clouds have been moving around the ice cap at about 4.5 mph (2 m/s), as observed by The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Mars Express spa...

Atira asteroids: A strange family of space rocks that circle close to the Sun

Astronomers just found an asteroid circling surprisingly close to our home Sun, adding one more sibling to a rare family of space rocks. Our solar system has a lot of rubble left over from its creation that’s strewn haphazardly between and beyo...
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