Passport to Earth

International travelers are familiar with the vast rules and regulations known as customs, but in the era of international extraterrestrial agreements, even space travelers need their papers. Since the launch of the first component of the International
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NASA’s Juno Gives Starship-Like View of Earth Flyby

When NASA’s Juno spacecraft flew past Earth on October 9, it received a boost in speed of more than 7.3 kilometers per second, which set it on course for a July 4, 2016, rendezvous with Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system. One of Juno’s sensors, (more...)

Cassini Obtains Best Views of Saturn Hexagon

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has obtained the highest-resolution movie yet of a unique six-sided jet stream, known as the hexagon, around Saturn’s north pole. This is the first hexagon movie of its kind, using color filters, and the first to show a complete view of the top of Saturn (more...)

Titan’s Polar Vortex Stands Out in Darkness

The sunlit edge of Titan’s south polar vortex stands out distinctly against the darkness of the moon’s unilluminated hazy atmosphere. The Cassini spacecraft’s images of the vortex led scientists to conclude that its clouds form at a much higher altitude — where sunlight can still reach (more...)

Comet ISON Approaching

The comet ISON is approaching the sun from the farthest edge of the solar system, with its closest pass predicted for November 28. Planetary scientists and astrophysicists have known this blob of dust and ice has been traveling toward the sun for more than a year. (more...)

NASA and International Telescopes Reveal Star’s Bubbly Birth

It’s a baby star! Combined observations from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and the newly completed Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile have revealed the throes of stellar birth as never before in the well-studied object known as HH 46/47. Herbig-Haro (HH) objects form when jets shot (more...)

Black Holes Don’t Make Big Splash

Throughout the universe, tucked inside galaxies far away, giant black holes are pairing up and merging. As the massive bodies dance around each other in close embraces, they send out gravitational waves that ripple space and time themselves, even as the waves pass right through the (more...)

Galaxy Growth Examined Like Tree’s Rings

Beginning at a tree trunk’s dense core and moving out to the soft bark, the passage of time is marked by concentric rings, revealing chapters of the tree’s history. Galaxies outlive trees by billions of years, making their growth impossible to see. But like biologists, astronomers can read the rings in (more...)

Ghostly Specter Haunts “Coldest Place in the Universe”

At a cosmologically crisp 1 degree Kelvin (minus 272 degrees Celsius), the Boomerang nebula is the coldest known object in the universe — colder than the faint afterglow of the Big Bang, the explosive event that created the cosmos. Astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (ALMA) (more...)

Mars Rover Opportunity Heads Uphill

NASA’s Mars exploration rover Opportunity captured this southward uphill view after beginning to ascend the northwestern slope of Solander Point, the tallest hill it has encountered in its nearly 10 Earth years on Mars. Guided by mineral mapping from orbit, the rover is exploring outcrops on the northwestern slopes of Solander (more...)

Dawn Confirms, Adds to Telescope Studies of Asteroids

Tantalized by images from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based data, scientists thought the giant asteroid Vesta deserved a closer look. They got a chance to do that in 2011 and 2012, when NASA’s Dawn spacecraft orbited the giant asteroid, and they were able to check (more...)

NASA Space Telescopes Find Patchy Clouds on Exotic World

Astronomers using data from NASA’s Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes have created the first cloud map of a planet beyond the solar system, a sizzling, Jupiter-like world known as Kepler-7b. The planet is marked by high clouds in the west and clear skies in the east. Kepler-7b (more...)

Curiosity Finds Water and More in Mars Soil

The first scoop of soil analyzed by the analytical suite in the belly of NASA’s Curiosity rover reveals that fine materials on the surface of Mars contain several percent water by weight. “One of the most exciting results from this very first solid sample ingested by Curiosity (more...)

Virtual Tour of Vesta With New High-Resolution Images

An atlas of the giant asteroid Vesta, created from images taken as NASA’s Dawn mission flew around the object, is now accessible for the public to explore online. The set of maps was created from mosaics of 10,000 images taken by Dawn’s framing cameras at a low (more...)

Coldest Brown Dwarfs Blur Star, Planet Lines

n 2011, astronomers on the hunt for the coldest starlike celestial bodies discovered a new class of such objects using NASA’s WISE Space Telescope. But until now, no one knew exactly how cool the bodies’ surfaces really are. In fact, some evidence suggested they could be at (more...)