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…

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) Today, 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…

NASA Selects Astrobotic Rover to Prospect for Water on the Moon’s South Pole

  (News from NASA) NASA has awarded Astrobotic of Pittsburgh $199.5 million to deliver NASA’s Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) to the Moon’s South Pole in late 2023. VIPER will collect data – including the location and concentration of ice – that will be used to inform the first global water resource maps of the…