Jupiter’s Moons Make Ghostly Auroral “Footprints”

We have all marveled at incredible photos and time-lapse videos of Earth’s auroral displays, captured by talented photographers that have braved the frigid nighttime temperatures of remote high-latitude locations as well as by those privileged few living in orbit aboard the International Space Station. But our planet isn’t the only one with curtains of light crowning its…

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Isn’t So Great Anymore

It used to be said with confidence by even grade-school kids that the largest storm in the Solar System was Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, which has been churning for at least 350 years and could fit three Earths across it. And while it’s true that the GRS is a truly enormous hurricane by Earthly standards, these…

Hubble Spots Saturn’s Northern Lights

Earth isn’t the only planet with auroras — any world with a magnetic field and an atmosphere can get a light show around its poles when its star’s wind is blowing hard enough!* The image above shows Saturn’s northern lights, as seen in ultraviolet light by the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys in…

Hubble Eyes Mars-Bound Comet

Comet Siding Spring won’t hit Mars on October 19 but it will come really, really close: 86,000 miles, or just a bit over 1/3 the distance between the Moon and Earth. That’s like having a bullet from a sniper positioned a mile away knock your hat off! (Given that you were the target of a…

Hubble Watches As an Asteroid Crumbles

Our solar system is an active place, and that is no better illustrated than with these recent observations by the Hubble Space Telescope of asteroid P/2013 R3 breaking apart — and it’s not even disintegrating in Earth’s or any other planet’s atmosphere, but rather as it travels through space 480 million km away from the…

The Brightest Lights: 12 Awesome Space Stories of 2013

What a year for space exploration! With 2013 coming to a close I thought I would look back on some of the biggest news in space that I’ve featured here on Lights in the Dark. Rather than a “top ten” list, as is common with these year-end reviews, I’m going to do more of a…

Jupiter’s Moon Europa Has Jets Like Enceladus!

“Attempt no landings there?” Ok, FINE. We’ll just fly a spacecraft through Europa’s newly-discovered plumes and get a taste of its underground ocean that way! Because it has them, and so we could. This was the big news from NASA, ESA, and Hubble researchers today: Jupiter’s ice-covered moon Europa (yes, the one from 2010) has…

Astronomers Spot an Asteroid Sporting Six Comet-Like Tails

If you thought tails were just for comets and cats, this asteroid is about to prove you wrong. On August 27 astronomers spotted an unusually fuzzy looking object in survey images taken with the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii. The multiple tails were discovered in Hubble images taken on September 10, 2013. When Hubble returned to…

Comet ISON is Keeping It Together

Despite a few previous claims of breaking up or fizzling out (which, technically, was a misquote anyway — it was ‘fizzing’ not ‘fizzling’) it appears that the incoming comet ISON is holding together just fine… although how well it does as it swings closely around the Sun in November has yet to be seen. While…

The Horsehead Nebula Like You’ve Never Seen It Before

Holy Horsehead, Batman! You’ve probably seen photos of the famous Horsehead nebula in Orion many times before, but NOTHING like this! Astronomers have used NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to photograph the iconic Horsehead Nebula in a new, infrared light to mark the 23rd anniversary of the famous observatory’s launch aboard the space shuttle Discovery on…

Pluto Gets Another Moon!

It’s a dwarf planet with a giant family! Astronomers working with the Hubble Space Telescope have announced a new moon around distant Pluto, bringing the known count up to 5. The image above, just released by NASA, shows the Pluto system with its newest member, P5. Read more here.

Hubble Spots Jupiter’s Spooky Northern Lights

Acquired in March 2007, this eerie image from Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys’s ultraviolet camera show glowing auroral emissions, always present in Jupiter’s polar regions. The aurora is hundreds of kilometers wide and about 250 kilometers above the planet. It is caused by electrically charged particles striking atoms in the upper atmosphere from above, the…