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5 Sky Events This Week: A Cosmic Blooming Flower and a New Year’s Shower

As festivities kick off the New Year, sky-watchers will revel in nights filled with shooting stars, the king of planets shining like a beacon, and grand planetary spectacles blooming in the heavens. Great Orion Nebula. With the moon reaching a new phase for New Year’s Eve, December 31, the dark skies are perfect for hunting…

Probe to Attempt Nearest-Ever Flyby of Mars’s Largest Moon on Sunday

As Europe’s Mars Express celebrates 10 years in orbit around the Red Planet it’s getting set to make a daredevil dive on our neighboring world’s largest moon, called Phobos. Flying past at only 28 miles (45 kilometers) above its craggy surface on December 29, this will be the closest encounter with the potato-shaped moon ever…

MAVEN Launches for the Red Planet

When MAVEN fires its thrusters and settles into Martian orbit next September, it will join a celebrity list of spacecraft already studying the red planet. Its launch today from Cape Canaveral, Florida, was a major step toward that goal, one that propels the satellite onward to its own fame during a year-long mission studying the…

NASA Reveals Saturn’s View Of Earth

NASA has unveiled a gorgeous Cassini spacecraft look at the Earth, Mars and Venus, as seen from behind Saturn. In orbit around the ringed planet since 2004, Cassini set up the image when it passed into Saturn’s shadow on July 19, 2013. That allowed the spacecraft to capture the arrangement of rings, moons and worlds seen…

5 Sky Events This Week: Partial Lunar Eclipse, Halley’s Shooting Stars

Mars and Regulus. Looking high east at dawn on Wednesday, October 16, check out Mars as it pairs up with Regulus, the lead star of the constellation Leo the lion.  The contrast in color between the orange-hued planet and the sparkling white, 79-light-year distant star is particularly striking with the naked eye or binoculars. What…

NASA: Shutdown Won’t Stop MAVEN Launch

The U.S. government shutdown won’t halt plans to launch NASA’s next Mars mission, scheduled for November 18, space agency officials have decided. The MAVEN (Mars Atmospheric and Volatile Evolution) spacecraft is required as a communications relay for NASA’s Mars rovers and therefore is exempt from the ongoing federal shutdown. The $485 million mission has only a…

Despite Shutdown NASA Planetary Probes On the Job

No worries… yet. Despite the U.S. government shutdown and cancellation of most of NASA’s activities, the space agency’s fleet of planetary spacecraft will remain on the job, including its Mars rovers and orbiters. (Read: “NASA Hit by Government Shutdown.”) That’s good news for the armada of robots recording  data streaming in from comet ISON as it…

One-Way Ticket to Mars Attracts Global Attention

There appears to be no shortage of wannabe planetary colonists willing to live—and possibly die on Mars. Mars One—a controversial project that aims to send humans on a one-way trip to the Red Planet by 2023—has garnered interest from 202,586 folks from more than 140 countries who sent in video applications. (Related: “Best Video Applications…

5 Sky Events This Week: Mars Buzzes Beehive, Venus Grazes Moon

Sky-watching in September starts off with ghostly cosmic glows and stunning close encounters between bright planets and stars. Zodiacal Lights. Starting on Tuesday, Sept.3, with a near moonless sky in the pre-dawn hours, the next two weeks mark the best chance for Northern Hemisphere observers to catch the elusive glow of the zodiacal lights. Far…

6 Sky Events This Week: Moon Dances, Seven Sisters, Bull’s Eye

  As one month gives way to another, planets, stars and meteors light up the night sky this week. Moon and the Seven Sisters. Near local midnight on Monday, August 26, then again the following night, watch the low eastern horizon for a rising moon parked near the famous Pleiades star cluster in the constellation…

4 Sky Events This Week: Ice Giants and Celestial Fishes

This week the moon helps sky-watchers catch some celestial fish and trawl the night sky for the most distant worlds in our solar system.  Mars and Gemini Twins. At dawn on Tuesday, August 20, look for ruddy-colored Mars forming a picturesque arc formation with the bright stars Pollux and Castor from the Gemini constellation. The…

August 11, 2013: Holding our Breath in Underwater Caves, Biking Across Kyrgyzstan Mountains, and More

Join us this week, as we explore the labyrinth of underwater caves deep under Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula for clues of its Mayan past, cycle solo through Central Asian mountain passes to climb remote peaks, and debunk American historical myths from the Wild West to the Surfin’ Safari.

6 Sky Events This Week: Perseids Peak, Cosmic Triangle and Rising Mars

This week, skywatchers will be spoiled with jam-packed skies: meteors raining down, a moon-planet-star triangle and a large asteroid flyby. Meteor Shower Peaks. The year’s best-known celestial event officially peaks at 6 p.m. GMT Monday, August 12, when the Perseid meteor shower will produce anywhere from 20 to 80 shooting stars per hour, depending on…

Strange Mars Craters Created By Ice?

A four-decade long Martian mystery surrounding the origins of double-rimmed craters may have been cracked. New research suggests that their strange spill patterns seen around some impact sites on Mars may be directly linked to giant ice sheets that could have blanketed the Red Planet sometime in its ancient past. (Related: Ancient Mars Was Snowy,…

Celebrating NASA’s Curiosity’s First Birthday (Live!)

The drama for Curiosity began with so-called “the seven minutes of terror,” landing operation that involved rocket burns to slow down Curiosity from its 13,000 mph (21,000 km per hour) interplanetary cruising speed to a harrowing sky crane maneuver that allowed the rover to be gingerly lowered to the surface. (Read: “Top 5 First Year…