Sunlight Can Crack Rocks on Asteroids

Here on Earth the surfaces of pretty much all but the most freshly-exposed (geologically-speaking, of course) rock surfaces exhibit the effects of atmospheric weathering—from rain, snow, and ice to wind, dust-blown sand, flowing water, and extreme heat. And underlying all of that are the relentless forces of tectonic activity. But on dry, airless, and tectonically…

When Spirit Spotted a Swarm of Devils

Mars may be pretty low on traffic these days but, on this day back in 2005, NASA’s Spirit rover (the twin to Opportunity) seemed to find itself at a busy intersection as several blustery dust devils zipped past, one after the other!

NASA’s Solar Probe Spots Comet NEOWISE and its Two (Maybe Three) Tails

As skywatchers around the world (and even above it!) are capturing increasingly beautiful views of the current naked-eye comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE), NASA’s Parker Solar Probe was able to grab a picture from a much different vantage point as it traveled beyond the orbit of Mercury on its way toward a July 11 flyby of…

Proposed VERITAS Mission Would Reveal Truths About Venus’ Geology

Earth and Venus travel around the Sun in neighboring orbits and both are rocky planets about the same size, but there the similarities end—at least in how the two worlds exist today. Venus’ desiccated surface roasts at nearly 900 degrees Fahrenheit beneath an opaque and crushing atmosphere over 90 times denser than Earth’s, and global…

Ice Hunt on the Moon Reveals Hidden Heavy Metal

Our beautiful Moon, serenely circling our world as it illuminates our evenings and tugs at our tides, is thought to have been born from a violent and catastrophic collision between a freshly-formed Earth and a Mars-sized wayward protoplanet almost four and a half billion years ago. This “giant impact hypothesis” is generally accepted because it…

Sometimes it Rains on the Sun

(Updated post from 2013) The Sun is awesome. I mean, never mind that it contains 99% of all the mass in the Solar System, that it supplies our planet with the energy needed to sustain life, that its constantly-blowing solar wind helps keep some of those nasty cosmic particles out of the planetary neighborhood, and…

Uranus is Full of Diamonds (and so is Neptune)

The conditions found deep inside the ice giants Uranus and Neptune are intense and exotic, to say the least. The incredibly frigid and windy environments found at the cloud tops, where hydrogen and helium are mixed with methane and ammonia, eventually give way to warmer interiors and crushing pressures with increasing depth. And as scientists…

Neptune-sized Planet Found Around a Baby Star 32 Light-years Away

Astronomers using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and data from the now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope  have announced the discovery of a Neptune-sized exoplanet orbiting AU Microscopii (AU Mic for short), a red M-dwarf star 31.93 light-years away and only about 20 to 30 million years old. The star is so young that it’s still…

This is the Shadow of a Solar Eclipse Seen from Behind the Moon

During a total eclipse event on July 2, 2019 the shadow of the Moon passed across the southern Pacific Ocean and parts of Chile and Argentina. For viewers on Earth the event briefly turned the daytime sky to night as the Moon completely blocked the Sun, but for one spacecraft orbiting far beyond the Moon…