Radioactive dust deep beneath the ocean waves suggests that Earth is moving through a massive cloud left behind by an exploded star. Continuously, for the last 33,000 years, space has been seeding Earth with a rare isotope of iron forged in supernovae. It’s not the first time that the isotope, known as iron-60, has dusted
The first meteor shower of spring is peaking Thursday morning. The Lyrid meteor shower, which happens in late April each year, occurs when the Earth passes through the tail of a comet. As debris from that comet enters our planet’s atmosphere, it burns up, leaving streaks in the sky that are visible to the naked
NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter took flight on Mars for the first time on Monday – and the Perseverance rover captured the entire feat in sharp video. The rover, which carried Ingenuity almost 300 million miles to Mars, perched on an overlook 64 meters (211 feet) away and watched the historic flight take place at 3:34 am
A wispy ring of dust that circles the Sun along the orbital path of Venus has just been revealed in the most detail yet, thanks to instruments carried by the Parker Solar Probe. The pristine, white-light images, taken from inside the orbit of Venus, show the ring in almost its entirety. This is vital data
After a series of delays, the first-ever powered flight to happen on another planet is go for liftoff. NASA’s Ingenuity helicopter is expected to rise into the Martian skies today at 03:30 am EDT, with data about its adventure arriving here on Earth a few hours later, transmitted in a livestream for all of us
NASA on Saturday said its Ingenuity helicopter may take flight on Mars as soon as Monday 19 April. A flight is planned for 3:30 am EDT (07:30 UTC) after a series of delays pushed the scheduled take-off back. Data is expected to arrive on Earth a few hours later, the agency said in a press release.
NASA has selected SpaceX to land the first astronauts on the surface of the Moon since 1972, the agency said Friday, in a huge victory for Elon Musk‘s company. The contract, worth $2.9 billion, involves the prototype Starship spacecraft that is being tested at SpaceX’s south Texas facility. “Today I’m very excited, and we are
Although it’s extremely difficult to directly image the shadow of and the space around a black hole, that’s not the only tool astronomers have in their kit. Based on years of observations and analysis, there’s a decades-long tradition of black hole visualizations, going all the way back to the work of French astronomer Jean-Pierre Luminet
If Planet Nine is out there, a large, mysterious planet lurking at the dark edges of the Solar System, it may not be where we thought it might be. According to astronomers searching for the hypothetical object, new information taken into account could mean that its orbit is significantly more elliptical than most recently predicted.
Telescopes from across the globe have teamed up to take unprecedented images of supermassive black hole M87* as it blasts matter into space at 99 percent the speed of light. This is the same famous black hole that was captured by the Event Horizon Telescope and unveiled in 2019. That first release was a spectacular achievement. It
Earth’s suit of geomagnetic armor has a chink, and it’s growing. A weak spot in our planet’s magnetic field, located above the southern Atlantic Ocean, has been increasing in size over the last two centuries, and it’s starting to split in two. For those of us on the ground, this isn’t cause for concern: The protective field
NASA’s $800 million Mars lander is in an energy crisis. InSight, which landed in a Martian plain called Elysium Planitia in 2018, has detected more than 500 Mars quakes, felt more than 10,000 dust devils pass by, and started to measure the planet’s core. But over the past few months, InSight has been fighting for its life
The more we study the Universe, the more it seems likely that each galaxy is orbiting a cosmic colossus – a supermassive black hole, powering the galactic nucleus. There’s a lot we don’t know about these giant objects – including the glaring question of how they grow so huge – but new research could help
Precipitation is much more widespread throughout the Solar System than commonly assumed. Obviously it rains water on Earth. But it snows carbon dioxide on Mars, rains methane on Titan, sulfuric acid on Venus, and could potentially rain diamonds on Neptune. The type of material falling out of the sky is almost as varied as the planets themselves. New research
From the smallest microbe to the mightiest oak, death is as true for above as it is for below, even for the mightiest galaxies. The process, however, is not a quick one. A haunting new Hubble photo of the galaxy NGC 1947 demonstrates this well: Even from a distance of around 45.4 million light-years away
Have you heard the one about NASA spending millions to develop a pen that would write in space, while the Soviet Union used pencils? Well, that story is a big fat myth, but the refrain ‘simple is best’ isn’t wrong. For example, to secure any loose cables, pipes, or even equipment on Mars rovers, NASA
On Thursday, NASA released a stunning photo of a sea of dunes on Mars. It also shows wind-sculpted lines surrounding Mars’ frosty northern polar cap. The section captured in the shot represents an area that is 31 kilometers (19 miles) wide, NASA said. The sea of dunes, however, actually covers an area as large as Texas. The
NASA has delayed the first flight of its Ingenuity Mars helicopter after a crucial test-spin of the drone’s rotor blades abruptly stopped. This was the last major test to make sure the helicopter would be ready for its first flight, which was originally scheduled for early Monday. Now NASA has delayed the historic liftoff —
Astrophysicists have found a new region of the Milky Way, and it’s filled with searingly hot, bright-blue stars that are about to explode. The researchers were creating the most detailed map yet of the star-flecked spiral arms of our galactic neighborhood with the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Gaia telescope when they discovered the region, which
We’ve known for a while that Earth is under a constant rain of space dust, and that it’s copious. Given its microscopic size, however, it’s been very hard to obtain an accurate estimate of the quantity. Such micrometeorites are no bigger than a fraction of a millimeter, shed like space dander from passing comets and asteroids.
Radio pulsars could be spitting way more powerful bursts of radiation into space than we knew. According to a new survey of the Crab pulsar some 6,500 light-years away, a type of event known as “giant radio pulses” are accompanied by an increase in X-ray emission. This means that these events are much more energetic
Perseverance hasn’t even been on Mars for two months, and already the latest in red planet rovers is picking up some of Curiosity’s excellent habits. No, not science; well, at least not just science. Percy is proving just as adept as her predecessor at snapping brilliant selfies, as the most recently sent images show. As
A cosmic gamma ray detected zipping across the Milky Way has broken the record for the most energetic we’ve found yet, clocking in at a whopping 957 trillion electronvolts (teraelectronvolts, or TeV). This not only more than doubles the previous record, it brings us close to the range of petaelectronvolts (that’s a quadrillion electronvolts) –
China’s Mars probe, Tianwen-1, has been hanging around Mars in a parking orbit for nearly two whole months now, preparing for its rover landing in May. But it’s not just sitting there in orbit twiddling its antennae. The probe is surveying the planet, orbiting closer, checking out the mission’s chosen rover landing site – and
NASA’s InSight lander felt the distant rumble of two major ‘marsquakes’ in March, originating from a region near the Martian equator known as the Cerberus Fossae. Registering magnitudes of 3.1 and 3.3 on March 7 and March 18 respectively, the quakes cement the Cerberus Fossae’s reputation as one of the most geologically active places on
If star-hopping aliens ever visited our solar system, Saturn is probably the planet they’d remember. The seven giant rings circling its equator make Saturn the most distinct planet orbiting the Sun. It may not be obvious in images of the hula-hoop planet, but the ice and rock chunks that make up those rings are circling
NASA’s Ingenuity mini-helicopter has been dropped on the surface of Mars in preparation for its first flight, the US space agency said. The ultra-light aircraft had been fixed to the belly of the Perseverance rover, which touched down on the Red Planet on February 18. “MarsHelicopter touchdown confirmed!” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory tweeted Saturday. “Its
It is no exaggeration to say that the study of extrasolar planets has exploded in recent decades. To date, 4,375 exoplanets have been confirmed in 3,247 systems, with another 5,856 candidates awaiting confirmation. In recent years, exoplanet studies have started to transition from the process of discovery to one of characterization. This process is expected to accelerate
Life was trying, but it wasn’t working out. As the Late Devonian period dragged on, more and more living things died out, culminating in one of the greatest mass extinction events our planet has ever witnessed, approximately 359 million years ago. The culprit responsible for so much death may not have been local, scientists say.
Stars die in fire and fury. They tremble and shake, erupting their viscera out into space; when the star explodes and the violence is done, a gorgeously glowing cloud of star guts remains. Such an event is what created the Veil Nebula, a gossamer shred of a larger supernova remnant called the Cygnus Loop created
Every planet in the Solar System has its idiosyncrasies, but Uranus is, truly, one of a kind. Not only is it tipped sideways so its rotational axis is practically parallel to its orbital plane, it smells terrible, it’s leaking everywhere, its magnetic field is an utter mess, and it has rings unlike any other planetary rings
Galaxy clusters are the largest structures in the Universe bound together by gravity. They can contain thousands of galaxies, enormous oceans of hot gas, invisible islands of dark matter and – sometimes – the glowing ghost of a jellyfish or two. In the galaxy cluster Abell 2877, located in the southern sky about 300 million light-years from Earth, astronomers have
Approximately 430,000 years ago, a meteorite exploded over Antarctica. The only reason we know about it now is because scientists have just found tiny, once-molten particles of space rock that have been hidden away in the ice ever since. Based on an analysis of those particles, the event was an unusual one – not quite
SpaceX chief Elon Musk confirmed on Twitter Tuesday that the latest prototype of the company’s Starship rocket series had crashed, after the video feed of its test flight cut out. “At least the crater is in the right place!” he joked, in acknowledging the fourth failed test of the prototype. “Something significant happened shortly after
Scientists have reported the discovery of a rare, medium-sized black hole that may help answer one of the more tantalizing questions in astronomy: how do their supermassive counterparts come into being? There are two well-known sizes of black hole – at one end, so-called stellar-class ones which are typically three to ten times the mass
In our limited experience, comet 2I/Borisov is one of a kind. It was discovered in August 2019, on a trajectory that could only mean one thing – the object had come from outside of our Solar System. It was the first known comet to visit from interstellar space, and represented a unique opportunity to study
The center of the Milky Way is mysteriously glowing. Sure, there’s a whole bunch of stars there, along with a black hole 4 million times the mass of the Sun – but subtract the light from all that, and we’re still left with this mysterious excess gamma radiation that suffuses the region. It’s called the
When it comes back around again in 2068, the asteroid Apophis will have practically no chance of hitting Earth. In fact, the 370-meter (1,210-foot) chunk of space rock won’t pose any sort of danger for at least another century, leading to its removal from both the ESA’s Risk List, and NASA’s Sentry Impact Risk Table.
In less than three years, astronauts will return to the Moon for the first time since the Apollo Era. As part of the Artemis Program, the purpose is not only to send crewed missions back to the lunar surface to explore and collect samples. This time around, there’s also the goal of establishing vital infrastructure
A spectacular display of lights that streamed across the night sky over the US Pacific Northwest was probably debris from a SpaceX mission re-entering the atmosphere, the National Weather Service (NWS) said. “While we await further confirmation on the details, here’s the unofficial information we have so far. The widely reported bright objects in the
Deep beneath its icy crust, the dark waters of Enceladus may be swirling. According to a new analysis of the layer of ice covering the Saturnian moon’s global oceans, currents very similar to Earth’s appear to be flowing there. If so, this means that Enceladus’s oceans may not be homogeneous after all. Enceladus doesn’t give
Strange things are afoot in the Milky Way. According to a new analysis of Gaia satellite data, the closest star cluster to our Solar System is currently being torn apart – disrupted not just by normal processes, but also by the gravitational pull of something massive we can’t see. This disruption, astronomers say, could be
The goalposts of science are always shifting. An achievement is never absolute – each new discovery is the doorway to a cascading series of other discoveries in our quest to understand the Universe. The supermassive black hole M87* is no exception. This black hole is the subject of humanity’s first-ever direct image of the shadow
According to reports in The Astronomer’s Telegram, a star in the region of the constellation of Cassiopeia has just gone nova, and the glow is still visible in the night sky. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere and have even a basic telescope, you might want to head out and point it in that direction.
It’s 2021, and we finally don’t have to worry quite so much about our spacecraft getting lost in interstellar space. Using the positions and shifting light of stars, both near and far, astronomer Coryn A.L. Bailer-Jones has demonstrated the feasibility of autonomous, on-the-fly navigation for spacecraft traveling far beyond the Solar System. Interstellar space navigation
We may not have detected life on Mars, but we have found ‘spiders’… of a sort. They’re called araneiforms: dark, spider-like systems of branching, fractal troughs found only in the southern polar regions of the red planet. There’s nothing like them on Earth, or any other planet in the Solar System. That makes it tricky
It collided with Jupiter in 1994, but Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 still apparently has things to teach us about the Solar System’s largest planet. A new analysis of the traces of the comet’s impact – still zooming around Jupiter’s atmosphere – has yielded the first direct measurement of the gas giant’s powerful stratospheric winds, in the
A month on, we’re all still buzzing about the Perseverance rover’s perfect landing in Jezero Crater on Mars, back on February 18, 2021. Over the past few weeks, NASA has released more stunning imagery and footage of the landing, and since then, the world-wide cadre of citizen scientists and image editing enthusiasts have been springing into