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Newfound “Pitbull” Asteroid Will Zip By Earth on Sunday

Good news, folks: The world won’t end on Sunday, when an asteroid nicknamed “Pitbull” will zip past Earth. But asteroid 2014 RC will provide some virtual sky-watching drama for fans of celestial flybys. (Related: “Asteroids and Comets.”) Discovered independently by two different observatory teams on August 31, the 60-foot-wide (20 meters) space rock will come closest to Earth at…

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…

Russian Meteor Shockwave Circled Globe Twice

The meteorite that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia in February produced a powerful shockwave that circled the globe twice, according to a new study.

Monster Comet may have Mars in its Crosshairs

Mars may have a really bad day next year on October 19th.    That’s when there is a very slight chance a newly discovered comet may impact our neighboring planet, says NASA. Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) was discovered by Australian Robert H. McNaught, a prolific comet and asteroid hunter just two months ago and NASA’s Near-Earth…

Watch Asteroid Buzz Earth

This Friday asteroid 2012 DA14 will go down in the record books as the closest approach of an object of its size since astronomers began keeping records a few decades ago. Zipping past our planet closer than most orbiting communication and weather satellites, this office building sized chunk of rock should be visible to some…

Ancient Americans Weren’t Wiped out by a Comet?

Like the undead monsters in a Hollywood movie, some science theories just keep coming back to life. That’s been the case with solving the mystery surrounding the sudden disappearance 13,000 years ago of the Clovis – a Paleo-Indian North American culture.  A popular theory keeps getting resurrected which fingers a comet impact in the Great…

What Would Happen if Comet Hartley 2 Hit Earth?

News reports on comets have been dominated the past few days by NASA’s flyby yesterday morning of the comet 103P/Hartley 2 and the subsequent close-up pictures. Before the NASA craft got cozy, the comet made its closest approach by Earth on October 20, coming a mere 11 million miles (17.7 million kilometers) from our planet.…

Why an Asteroid Strike Would Turn Humans Into Nightwalkers

Flattened cities, blankets of debris, earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires, and shockwaves are just some of the ways a large asteroid impact could devastate life on Earth. Now add depleting the ozone layer to that list. A new model of asteroid smashes shows how a space rock plunging into the deep ocean would drastically alter atmospheric chemistry,…

Exploding Clays Drive Geminids Sky Show?

Often in science, things get presented as facts, rules, and definitive statements. But part of the joy of science is that “facts” can be in flux, and rules are made to be broken. The Geminid meteor shower, which peaks each year in December, is one such rule-breaker. Unlike every other known meteor shower, the Geminids…

Did a Comet Make Jupiter’s Rings Wave?

When you’re talking about a gas giant planet with rings, it’s often Saturn in the limelight. After all, you can see that planet’s bright disk of icy particles from Earth with just a modest telescope. But in 1979 the Voyager 1 spacecraft saw that Jupiter has rings too, albeit a much fainter system primarily made…

Jupiter News Flash: Pictures of “Nothing” Reveal Size of Recent Impact

It’s been tough times for Jupiter: The gas giant planet lost a belt in May, and, thanks to the diligence of amateur astronomers, we know that it has been struck by space objects at least three times in the course of a year. Australian amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley recorded the first impact in July 2009.…

“Death Star” Moon Gets Its Close-Up

“That’s no moon. Oh, wait, yes it is!” —Image courtesy NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute When Luke said that TIE fighter was headed toward a “small moon,” he must have had Mimas on his mind. Since the 1980s this small Saturn moon has been likened to the fictional Death Star, thanks to its most noticeable blemish, the…

Moon Crash to Put All Eyes on Cabeus A

On October 9, 2009, a piece of launch rocket still attached to an orbiting spacecraft will finally let go so it can take a dive into the moon. The event is the end goal of NASA’s LCROSS mission, which aims to study material kicked up by the impact to find out whether the lunar surface…

Monkeys in Outer Space: 50 Years Later

—Image courtesy NASA Thankfully this is not a very odd sort of suppository. This is a squirrel monkey called Miss Baker, sitting in a NASA bio-capsule. On May 28, 1959, Miss Baker and a rhesus monkey named Able became the first primates to survive a trip into outer space. Both monkeys flew onboard a Jupiter…

Could Earth Have Two Moons?

It’s our closest neighbor in the solar system and the only one we’ve set human feet on so far. But there’s still plenty of mystery surrounding our orbital partner, the moon. —Image courtesy NASA Perhaps one of the biggest questions is why we have a lone natural satellite, and a pretty big one at that.…