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5 Sky Events This Week: Full Lunar Eclipse and Lord of the Rings

This is a big week even for the most amateur of sky-watchers, with a rare full lunar eclipse and Mars getting as close as it ever does to Earth. Moon shadow play. The moon will appear to be orange-red late Monday night and early Tuesday morning as it undergoes a total eclipse, the first visible…

Sea Serpent Eats Cosmic Diamond Ring

A  cosmic diamond ring is the best way to describe the haunting beauty of a distant star in its final moments of life. Located some 2,500 light-years from Earth within the belly of a mythical water snake, Abell 33 (also known as PK238+34.1) represents the final remains of a sunlike star that has thrown its…

4 Sky Events This Week: A Cosmic Kite and the King of Planets

As springtime winds begin to blow, a giant celestial kite sets sail, riding high in the night sky. For sky-watchers, another delightful week is ahead for observing the heavens, with the moon waxing after an early absence and taking a starring role in the celestial encounters ahead. Springtime kite. With the moon missing for most of the…

Powerful Jets From Mars-Bound Comet Spied by Hubble

After lurking in the outer reaches of the solar system for the past one million years, a comet is heading for a close encounter with Mars. The Hubble Space Telescope is keeping tabs on the icy interloper, seen in just-released images. Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring), which now lies some 353 million miles (568 million…

NASA Unveils Stunning New Milky Way Portrait

Talk about an out-of-this-world map! NASA has unveiled a stunning new clickable panoramic portrait of our home galaxy, the Milky Way. The zoomable, 360-degree view was constructed from more than two million infrared snapshots taken over the past ten years by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. “If we actually printed this out, we’d need a billboard…

Hands-on STEM Learning: Northern Skies Observatory

A seventh grader sitting at the computer control desk at an observatory in a small Vermont town comments to her fellow student: “I can’t believe I am in charge of this telescope!” The 17-inch PlaneWave reflecting telescope, complete with its supporting state-of-the-art equipment and robotic software, was displaying images of a galaxy 2.3 million light-years…

First Person: What I’m Learning on a Simulated Mars Mission

By Jim Urquhart for National Geographic “Mars has been flown by, orbited, smacked into, radar examined, and rocketed onto, as well as bounced upon, rolled over, shoveled, drilled into, baked, and even blasted. Still to come: Mars being stepped on.”—Buzz Aldrin In a remote stretch of Utah desert, five scientific researchers and one journalist, myself, came together this month…

Watch Asteroid Eclipse Star Tonight

Late tonight, millions living around New York City may witness the best stellar disappearing act ever seen in North America. Lucky sky-watchers with clear skies across parts of the Northeast will observe a bright star momentarily wink out early Thursday morning. Beginning at 2:07 a.m. EDT, the 45-mile-wide (72-kilometer-wide) asteroid named 163 Erigone will slip…

5 Sky Events This Week: Moon Joins God of War While Leo’s Heart Winks Out

Sky-watchers can rejoice at the change of seasons this week, seeing the moon join forces with Mars and Saturn, just as one of the sky’s most brilliant stars is eclipsed. Moon joins Spica. Late at night on Monday, March 17, look for the waning gibbous moon to rise in the eastern sky with two bright celestial…

Biggest Yellow “Hypergiant” Star Spotted

A jumbo star 1,300 times wider than the sun has surprised astronomers, who report it is the biggest yellow “hypergiant” star ever spotted. Dubbed HR 5171, the star is also surprising because a companion star was discovered orbiting it. “The two stars are so close that they touch, and the whole system resembles a gigantic…

Orion Star Factory May Be Deadly to Planets

  The Great Orion Nebula not only looks like a giant star factory, but new research suggests it also is a destroyer of young worlds. New high-frequency radio observations obtained through the radio telescopes at the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in northern Chile show for the first time that the giant gas cloud, located…

5 Sky Events of the Week: Stellar Peak-a-Boo and Leo Paws at the Moon

With a change of seasons only days away, mid-March skies offer celestial sights that even the novice stargazer will find easy to enjoy. Lunar rectangle. After nightfall on Monday, March 10, look for the waxing gibbous moon to form a corner of a rectangle with Jupiter and the Gemini twins, Castor and Pollux, high in the southern…

Asteroid Sails Between Earth and the Moon Tonight

A newly discovered asteroid will hurtle through the Earth-moon system on Wednesday night. Everyone around the world can watch the event unfold through large telescopes that will broadcast live online. Asteroid 2014 DX110, discovered only on February 28, 2014, thankfully poses no danger since it will be missing our planet by 218,000 miles (350,837 kilometers).…

4 Sky Events This Week: Seven Sisters and a Stellar Sandwich

A final glimpse of the seventh planet from the sun comes this week, and the moon takes sky-watchers on a celestial tour of some stunning star clusters. Last-chance green giant. After dusk on Monday, March 3, the razor-thin crescent moon acts as convenient guidepost to the fast-fading planet Uranus, which will hang just below the moon.…

Brightest Lunar Impact Ever Recorded

This artwork depicts the blast formed from an impacting meteor on the lunar surface. Credit: NASA Anyone looking up at the right moment on September 11, 2013, may have caught sight of a brief flash of light on the moon. The flash was the biggest and brightest lunar impact ever observed by astronomers, a new Monthly…