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Ice, Ice Mercury

It’s rare that astronomers declare news with great certainty, so the announcement that water ice was confirmed in Mercury’s poles is an “exclamation point.” The amount of ice is also astounding—100 billion to a trillion metric tons, or something like layering Washington, D.C. with 2 to 2.5 miles of ice.

Is This the Biggest Black Hole Ever?

A monstrous black hole—17 billion times the mass of the Sun and possibly the largest ever detected—appears to be too big for its galactic home, leaving astronomers scratching their heads about its very existence. The cosmic behemoth, at the heart of a distant galaxy, is estimated to be 4,000 times larger than the black hole…

Starry Nights, in Quick Time

Photographer Christoph Malin says he’s not an office guy. That’s good, because the time he spent milking the skies above La Palma, a volcanic island in the Spanish Canaries, means we get to enjoy a taste of astronomy paradise in his time lapse “Island in the Sky.”

Chasing the Total Solar Eclipse

When the Moon slips between the Earth and Sun this week, Slovak astronomer Vojtech Rusin will be ready on a hotel balcony in Cairns, Australia to witness his 19th total solar eclipse. He tells StarStruck what it takes to follow the stellar phenomenon.

Using Astrophysics to Find Superman’s Krypton

When Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of New York City’s Hayden Planetarium, got a call from DC Comics about its latest Superman storyline, the famed astrophysicist saw an opportunity to make real science a part of superhero lore. He said to DC: How about I find you a real star that could be home to Superman’s native planet, Krypton? He did, and here’s how.

Space Shuttle Atlantis Rolls to Retirement

Kennedy Space Center said goodbye to their final departing space shuttle orbiter on Friday, though Atlantis only had to travel 9.8 miles (15.8 km) to her new home just off-site in the process. “It’s bittersweet seeing her go,” said one NASA employee, “but at least she’ll be nearby.” The same can’t be said for the…

Amazing New Time-Lapse: Shuttle Endeavour’s Complete LA Journey

This stunning new time-lapse video of the space shuttle Endeavour’s shuffle through the streets of Los Angeles is quite simply, the best.

How to Drive a Mars Rover

From 120 million miles away, a team at “drivers” must tell the Mars rover Curiosity where to go as it approaches a steep, rocky slope. They work their computer screens with an arcade-like intensity—you almost expect them to reach for the joystick. But that’s not how you drive on Mars. It’s much more complicated than that, and the stakes could hardly be higher.

Discovering the World’s Astronomical Heritage

What places best describe humankind’s fascination with the universe? Try Navajo star ceilings, the Temple of Isis in Egypt, or Stonehenge. Maybe it’s Qing Dynasty instruments at the Beijing Ancient Observatory or mountaintop telescopes in Chile. These places are now recognized as astronomical heritage sites as part of a joint initiative of UNESCO and the International Astronomical Union.

Inside the Space Shuttle Carrier Aircraft

This week, when the space shuttle Endeavour flies from Kennedy Space Center to Los Angeles and its new home at the California Science Center, it also means the retirement of the Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA) that has been responsible for transporting all the space shuttles for over 35 years.

Neil Armstrong’s Legacy for Astronomers

Not many people can say they’ve met the first man on the moon. But mingle with astronomers gathered in Beijing for a conference and you’ll come across one or two—even at breakfast—who can reflect personally about Neil Armstrong.

Primetime Gazing at Our Most Distant Planet

Planets like Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are easy to spot when they shine at their brightest but the outermost planet, Neptune, is a bit of a challenge even when at its best. Now is the best viewing prospects of the year for Neptune as it reaches opposition on August 24th – meaning the gas…

Scene of a Martian Landing

It has the feel of a crime scene shot—a grainy black-and-white photo with arrows pointing to where the salient evidence was found. But the absorbing image is instead a marvel of space science, an actual photo that shows where the five portions of the now celebrated Mars Science Lab/Curiosity descent capsule landed.

Curiosity Landing on Mars Greeted with Whoops and Tears of Jubilation

Breaking Orbit guest blogger Marc Kaufman describes the joyful atmosphere, relief and pride inside the NASA Jet Propulsion Jet Laboratory a few hours ago, when scientists, engineers and technicians got confirmation from Mars that after years of hard work and a nail-biting descent their roving science laboratory Curiosity had been placed on the Red Planet apparently exactly as planned.

Mission to Mars: Why Curiosity’s Landing is a Moment to Savor

By dropping the one-ton rover Curiosity into a Martian crater (with a three-mile high mountain nearby!), and equipping it to search over two years for the building blocks of possible extraterrestrial life; humans are once again at a great moment of adventure and exploration to savor.