Europe’s Sentinel-3A Returns Gorgeous “First Light” Earth Images

Captured by the EU’s Copernicus Sentinel-3A satellite on Feb. 29, 2016, this beautiful composition of blacks, purples, and blues shows the twilight transition across the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard, located north of the Arctic Circle between Norway and the North Pole.  The snow-covered and fjord-cut large island of Spitsbergen can be seen at the right edge, while sea ice…

NASA Astronaut Returns to Earth After Historic “Year in Space”

With a smile and an energetic thumbs-up, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly exited the Soyuz TMA-18M capsule shortly after landing on the remote steppe of Kazakhstan at 10:26 p.m. Central time March 1, 2016. It was the return of the Expedition 46 crew, which included Russian cosmonauts Sergey Volkov and Mikhail Kornienko, the latter of whom shared…

Scientists Prove It’s Still Einstein’s Universe and We’re All Just Living In It

In what has truly turned out to be a momentous occasion in astrophysics, today scientists announced the first-ever direct observation of gravitational waves by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) experiment, which consists of two enormous detector facilities located in Louisiana and Washington state and an international consortium of thousands of researchers. First predicted by Albert Einstein in…

Astronaut’s Green Thumb Grows the First* Flower in Space

Say hello to the first* flower unfurled in space! This picture, shared on Jan. 16, 2016 by NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, shows a plant that has – thanks to some TLC from Kelly – managed to produce the first-ever zinnia blooms in low-Earth orbit and in fact the first flower grown outside of Earth’s biosphere. (Edit: read disclaimer below.)

It’s Officially 2016 and Officially Time for a New Calendar

If you just looked at your calendar and realized you’re literally out of days (Happy New Year!) then it’s way past time to get yourself a new one. And if you love space, these are the ones you’ll want. Produced by Starry Messenger Press in conjunction with The Planetary Society, the 2016 Year in Space calendar…

Plutonium is Back on the Menu, Future NASA Missions!

While I highly advise against humans making a meal out of it (despite my headline) the radioactive element plutonium has long been a staple energy source for many of NASA’s space missions, from Apollo’s ALSEPs to the twin Voyagers to the Curiosity rover.* But the particular non-weapons-grade flavor that NASA needs — plutonium dioxide, aka Pu-238 — has not been…

NASA’s Next Era Will Rely on Robots

NASA’s Shuttle era may be over but its robotic era is in full swing. With robots having long performed the bulk of our exploration across the Solar System, on the surface of Mars, and now assisting astronauts in low-Earth orbit, we’re now also on the verge of having robots doing work for us on the Moon, on…

Astronaut Ron Garan Says Let’s Set Up a Moon Base First

Former NASA astronaut Ron Garan was recently interviewed for Huffington Post’s LIVE broadcast. Ron talked about his new book The Orbital Perspective (read my review here) along with what it was like to be an astronaut and the way his experiences changed his views of life on Earth. (He also live-narrated some of the work…

The 2015 Year in Space Calendars Are Here!

What brings you an entire sidereal year of awesome space news and pictures, each and every day? (Besides me, of course?) That’s right: The Year in Space calendar! Produced by Starry Messenger Press in conjunction with The Planetary Society, the 2015 Year in Space calendar is (like its predecessors) a gorgeous 16″ x 22″ (40.5 cm…

Visiting the Place Where We Talk to Space

When you’re talking to spacecraft billions of miles away, you need a powerful voice. And when you’re listening for their faint replies from those same staggering distances, you need an even bigger set of ears. Fortunately, NASA’s Deep Space Network has both — and last week I had the chance to see some of them up close…

Voyager 1: It’s Officially Out

“We made it! 35 years and 13 billion miles.” Those were the words of project scientist Ed Stone today during a NASA news conference about the Voyager 1 spacecraft, which, after traveling the far reaches of our Solar System for decades on end, has finally passed the physical boundaries of the heliosphere and entered interstellar…

“Like L.A. Smog on Steroids” – Cassini Scientists Pick Apart Titan’s Haze

Scientists working with data from NASA’s Cassini mission have confirmed the presence of a population of complex hydrocarbons in the upper atmosphere of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, that later evolve into the components that give the moon a distinctive orange-brown haze. The presence of these complex, ringed hydrocarbons, known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), explains…