What Happened to Mars?

Mars wasn’t always the cold, dry world that it is today — billions of years ago it likely looked a lot more like Earth, with seas and rivers of liquid water on its surface and a thick atmosphere with air and clouds. But something happened over the course of Mars’ history to transform it from…

What Happens Around a Hungry Black Hole?

While what exactly goes on within the event horizon of a black hole is still well within the realm of theoretical physics (and it’s said that at the very heart of a black hole physics as we know it gets a serious kick in the pants) researchers are learning more and more about what happens…

Research Reveals Rain Shadows from Saturn’s Rings

A rain of ionized water molecules falls into Saturn’s upper atmosphere from its rings, researchers from England’s University of Leicester have found. Using images from NASA’s Voyager spacecraft and more recent near-infrared observations from the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, it has been found that dark bands seen across Saturn are actually the “rain shadows” of…

The Sun is Awesome

It really is. I mean, nevermind 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 that it makes a bright sunshiny…

Daphnis Is Back!

It’s been a while since I posted an image of my favorite moon of Saturn, but while looking through some recent raw images returned by the Cassini spacecraft I spotted it: Daphnis, the little sculptor shepherd moon!

An Asteroid’s Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat

Vesta — the asteroid that was almost a planet — has its complex surface composition revealed in this animation made from images acquired by NASA’s Dawn spacecraft. The video reveals the dappled, variegated surface of the giant asteroid Vesta, the second most massive object in the main asteroid belt. The animation drapes high-resolution false color…

Mighty Melanthius

The 662-mile-wide Tethys is one of the most heavily cratered worlds in the solar system, tied with sister moons Rhea and Dione. In this recent raw image captured by Cassini on April 14, we can see some of the moon’s larger craters, including Melanthius with its enormous central peak.

Brightest ISS Pass of 2012!

Ok, I know it’s kind of a misleading title because it’s only 4 days into the new year but still, at magnitude -4.0 tonight’s flyover of the ISS was one of the brightest I’ve ever seen, this year or any other! At 6:28 p.m. CST, the ISS rose in the northeast and passed nearly exactly…

Monday Night Lights: October Aurorae Surprise Skywatchers

Powerful geomagnetic activity created colorful aurorae that delighted skywatchers around the world on the night of Monday, October 24. The photo above was taken by LITD fan Bob Trembley from his location in Chesterfield, Michigan with his Canon EOS Rebel XS. “I can NOT believe I got these shots!” Bob writes on his Facebook page….

Reflections on a Tweetup

It’s been over a week since the NASA Tweetup (note: these are now called “NASA Socials”) and I’m still thinking about it. For good reason, of course… it was awesome. Over the course of two days I saw a capsule that had been to space and back, talked with five astronauts (one currently in orbit!),…

Big Sisters

Here’s a color-composite image of Rhea and Titan, Saturn’s largest moons. Made from raw images acquired by the Cassini spacecraft on June 16, 2011, this really shows the vast difference in size and appearance of the two moons. Rhea, seen in the foreground, is an icy, airless and heavily-cratered world 950 miles wide. Titan, on…

A Fistful of Moons

This image from Cassini shows no less than five of Saturn’s moons in the same frame: Rhea (1,528 kilometers, or 949 miles across) is largest in the foreground; Dione (1,123 kilometers, or 698 miles across) can be seen just above the rings below Rhea near the center; Prometheus (86 kilometers, or 53 miles across) is just barely…