Hubble’s Newest View of Jupiter Shows New Storms Brewing

News from NASA: This latest image of Jupiter, taken by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope on August 25, 2020, was captured when the planet was 406 million miles from Earth. Hubble’s sharp view is giving researchers an updated weather report on the monster planet’s turbulent atmosphere, including a remarkable new storm brewing, and a cousin of…

Phosphine Discovery in Venus’ Atmosphere Raises the Big Question of Life

Today an international team of scientists led by Jane Greaves of Cardiff University in the UK announced the discovery of phosphine (PH3) in the atmosphere of our neighboring planet Venus — a detection made using data from ground-based telescopes located in Hawaii and Chile. On Earth, phosphine is created for industrial uses in labs and by…

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…

NASA’s Perseverance Rover Launches to Mars

Today, July 30, 2020 at 7:50 a.m. EDT (11:50 UTC) NASA’s Mars 2020 rover Perseverance launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida aboard a ULA Atlas V 541 rocket. The weather at the Cape was picture-perfect and the launch went smoothly, sending NASA’s newest robotic mission to Mars on its way for an anticipated arrival and landing…

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…

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…

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…

Neptune-sized Planet Found Around a Baby Star 32 Light-years Away

Astronomers using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and data from the now-retired Spitzer Space Telescope  have announced the discovery of a Neptune-sized exoplanet orbiting AU Microscopii (AU Mic for short), a red M-dwarf star 31.93 light-years away and only about 20 to 30 million years old. The star is so young that it’s still…