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…

Solar Orbiter’s First Images Reveal the Sun Covered With Tiny “Campfires”

The pictures are in! The first image data from the cameras aboard ESA’s Solar Orbiter were revealed today, July 16 2020, and reveal many features on our Sun we’ve never been able to see before—including small-scale flare activity dubbed “campfires.” (I say small-scale but they’re actually the size of entire countries!) “The Sun might look…

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…

Uranus is Full of Diamonds (and so is Neptune)

The conditions found deep inside the ice giants Uranus and Neptune are intense and exotic, to say the least. The incredibly frigid and windy environments found at the cloud tops, where hydrogen and helium are mixed with methane and ammonia, eventually give way to warmer interiors and crushing pressures with increasing depth. And as scientists…

This is the Shadow of a Solar Eclipse Seen from Behind the Moon

During a total eclipse event on July 2, 2019 the shadow of the Moon passed across the southern Pacific Ocean and parts of Chile and Argentina. For viewers on Earth the event briefly turned the daytime sky to night as the Moon completely blocked the Sun, but for one spacecraft orbiting far beyond the Moon…

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…

ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter Detects Green Airglow Around Mars

Many photographs taken from low-Earth orbit, especially from the Space Station while on the night side of Earth, show a thin line of green or yellowish light just above the limb of our planet. This is called airglow, and it’s caused by excited oxygen atoms high in the atmosphere releasing energy in the form of…

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…

New Horizons is Far Enough from Earth to See an “Alien Sky”

(News from JHUAPL) For the first time, a spacecraft has sent back pictures of the sky from so far away that some stars appear to be in different positions than we see from Earth. More than four billion miles from home and speeding toward interstellar space, NASA’s New Horizons has traveled so far that it…