How To Spot Comet NEOWISE

Info from NASA on July 14, 2020: Observers in the Northern Hemisphere are hoping to catch a glimpse of Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) as it zips through the inner solar system before it speeds away into the depths of space. [Editor’s note: many already have!] Discovered on March 27, 2020 by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field…

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…

Thousands of Black Holes Surround the Heart of our Galaxy

(From NASA’s Image of the Day, June 19, 2020) Astronomers have discovered evidence for thousands of black holes located near the center of our Milky Way galaxy using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. This black hole bounty consists of stellar-mass black holes, which typically weigh between five to 30 times the mass of our Sun….

Proposed Trident Mission Could Explore Neptune’s Moon Triton in 2038

(News from NASA) Voyager 2 is the only spacecraft ever to have flown past Neptune, and it left a lot of unanswered questions. The views were as stunning as they were puzzling, revealing massive, dark plumes of icy material spraying out from Triton‘s surface. But how? Images showed that the icy landscape was young and…

Solar Orbiter is Now Capturing the Closest-Ever Pictures of the Sun

(News from ESA) On June 15, 2020, the ESA/NASA Solar Orbiter spacecraft made its first close approach to the Sun (perihelion), coming within 77 million kilometers (48 million miles) of its surface—about half the distance between the Sun and Earth. Over the next week mission scientists will test the spacecraft’s ten science instruments, including the six…