Get to Know Bennu Better Before OSIRIS-REx’s Sample Grab

It’s almost TAG time! On October 20, 2020 NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will slowly descend from its orbit 2,500 feet (770 meters) above Bennu to briefly touch the asteroid’s pebbly surface with its TAGSAM instrument, quickly sucking in and filter-capturing a small amount of material which will be returned to Earth for scientific study in 2023….

Astronomers Spot the Bright Blast from a Spaghettified Star

Spaghettification — it may sound like a cartoon wizard’s spell effect but it’s actually a term scientists use for what happens to massive objects that get too close to a black hole…they’re literally pulled apart into long strands of material by the black hole’s immense gravity. “Massive objects” can mean planets, asteroids, spaceships, or even…

They’ve Found Water on Mars Again

In what seems to have become somewhat of an annual event researchers have announced the discovery of water on Mars yet again—although this time it’s more of a confirmation of a previous announcement (with a bit extra for good measure) but not everyone is agreeing on the interpretation of the evidence… then again, that’s how…

Hubble’s Newest View of Jupiter Shows New Storms Brewing

News from NASA: This latest image of Jupiter, taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope on August 25, 2020, was captured when the planet was 406 million miles from Earth. Hubble’s sharp view is giving researchers an updated weather report on the monster planet’s turbulent atmosphere, including a remarkable new storm brewing, and a cousin of…

Phosphine Discovery in Venus’ Atmosphere Raises the Big Question of Life

Today an international team of scientists led by Jane Greaves of Cardiff University in the UK announced the discovery of phosphine (PH3) in the atmosphere of our neighboring planet Venus — a detection made using data from ground-based telescopes located in Hawaii and Chile. On Earth, phosphine is created for industrial uses in labs and by…

Betelgeuse’s Recent Dimming Likely Caused by a Dusty Outburst

From October 2019 to February 2020, Betelgeuse (the bright orange star at Orion’s right shoulder, not Tim Burton’s magical necroprankster) was seen to dim dramatically, even more so than it typically does. It was something that wasn’t just observed with telescopes but also it was quite obvious to the naked eye from most locations. This…

Ceres’ Salty Mound is the Result of Ongoing Geologic Activity

First observed with the Hubble Space Telescope in 2003, the curious bright spots on the dwarf planet Ceres—the largest world in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter—was brought into exquisite focus with the arrival of NASA’s Dawn spacecraft in 2015. The largest and brightest of these spots—a single 340-meter-high mound named Cerealia Facula…

What’s the Weather on Jupiter? Cloudy with a Chance of Mushballs

Recent findings from NASA’s Juno mission, in orbit around Jupiter since July 4, 2016, may have solved an ongoing mystery about the composition of the giant planet’s upper atmosphere; namely, the case of the missing ammonia. (Jupiter is composed mostly of hydrogen and helium but also contains trace amounts of ammonia, methane, and water vapor.) North…

NASA’s Perseverance Rover Launches to Mars

Today, July 30, 2020 at 7:50 a.m. EDT (11:50 UTC) NASA’s Mars 2020 rover Perseverance launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida aboard a ULA Atlas V 541 rocket. The weather at the Cape was picture-perfect and the launch went smoothly, sending NASA’s newest robotic mission to Mars on its way for an anticipated arrival and landing…