5,000 Year-Old Light from the Depths of the Lagoon Nebula

Here’s the central “heart” of the Lagoon Nebula (Messier 8), a giant emission nebula and interstellar cloud inside our galaxy located about 5,000 light-years away in the constellation Sagittarius. This is a color-composite and mosaic of images captured by Hubble in visible-light wavelengths on Feb. 12, 2018. The massive stars embedded within the nebula give…

Are There “Aliens” in our Solar System?

No, I don’t mean little grey men in hard candy-shaped ships, I mean natural objects that have origins from outside of our own Solar System—small worlds that formed around a different star. It’s entirely possible that objects can be ejected from a star system and find their way into orbit around another, or even gravitationally…

I Took a Crack at the Egg Nebula

This is an interesting object: it’s called the Egg Nebula, a protoplanetary nebula located in our galaxy 3,000 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. Here, an opaque cloud of dust and gas hides a central star that’s expelling its outer layers. Beams of the star’s light escape the cloud through holes, illuminating the layers. This…

Phobos Will Eventually Become a Ring Around Mars

Phobos, Mars’ largest moon — although at just 16 miles wide still quite small — is slowly but steadily being torn apart by the gravitational pull of Mars… and it bears the scars to prove it. Long parallel grooves seen wrapping around the surface of Phobos are most likely stress fractures, visible evidence of the tidal forces…

Double Moon: Debunked

In what seems to be a newly-evolved form of the 15-year-old Mars Hoax people have recently been asking me about a “double Moon” that they heard is supposed to occur. I hadn’t come across it myself (maybe because I follow too much *actual* science news) but it sounded suspiciously familiar and, now being August, I figured…

It’s Been 32 Years Since We Last Explored Uranus

Voyager 2 may have been the second of NASA’s famous twin exploration spacecraft but it actually launched first, on August 20, 1977. Eight and a half years later it became the first (and, to date, last) spacecraft to visit Uranus, at 31,500 miles across the third largest planet in the Solar System. Voyager 2 made its closest…

Eppur Si Muove: Galileo’s Big Night

On this night in 1610 the Pisan astronomer Galileo Galilei looked up at a bright Jupiter at opposition through his handmade telescope and noted three little “stars” next to it, piquing his natural scientific curiosity. Further observations over the next few nights showed that the planet wasn’t moving relative to the little “stars” as it…

Answers to 8 Questions About the August 2017 Solar Eclipse

It’s August and one of the most highly-anticipated astronomical events of the 21st century is nearly upon us: the August 21 solar eclipse, which will be visible as a total eclipse literally across the entire United States…but that doesn’t mean everywhere in the United States. Totality will pass across the U.S. in a narrow band about…

Uranus Lights Up for Hubble

Those white areas aren’t clouds; they’re aurorae—”northern lights”—around the poles of Uranus, captured by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2012 and 2014. (The image of Uranus itself was acquired by the Voyager 2 spacecraft in January 1986.) “The auroras on Jupiter and Saturn are well-studied, but not much is known about the auroras of the…