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5 Sky Events This Week: Goddess of Love and Distant Giants

The goddess of love this week brightens the dawn hours for skywatchers.

Far-Flung Exoplanet Puzzles Astronomers

Talk about a cosmic outsider! A newfound exoplanet sets the record for orbital distance from a host star. Dubbed GU Psc b, the giant planet is on an orbit more than 2,000 times farther away from its star than the one the Earth circles around the sun. You wouldn’t see many birthdays on this exotic world, since…

5 Sky Events This Week: Blue and Green Giants With Goddess of Love

Along with a sprinkling of shooting stars, sky-watchers this week will marvel at the moon, which guides them to the mythical characters studding the night sky. Lyrids peak. In the early morning hours of Tuesday, April 22, observers can expect this small meteor shower to peak, with rates of up to about 20 shooting stars per…

5 Sky Events This Week: Lunar Wall, Mars Up-Close, and a Blue Giant

Fantastic fault lines and planetary close encounters this week offer sky-watchers some impressive cosmic views of the heavens. The lunar wall. The first quarter moon, which comes into view on Monday, April 7, offers the best moment this month to view, in small telescopes, an amazing lunar feature called the lunar wall, or Rupes Recta (sometimes called the…

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…

Hubble Telescope Finds New Moon for Neptune

The Hubble Space Telescope‘s keen eye has revealed a previously undetected moon orbiting Neptune.  The July 1, 2013 discovery , 24 years after Voyager 2 swung by the icy-blue giant, expands the known retinue of circling moons to 14. Known only by its temporary designation —S/20044 N1—the tiny celestial piece of real estate measures no more…

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…

Newfound Alien Star System Boasts 5, Maybe 7, Planets

About 127 light-years away there’s a star like our sun that hosts at least five planets, each roughly the same mass as Uranus or Neptune, astronomers announced today. A closeup of the sky around HD 10180 —Image courtesy ESO and Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgment: Davide De Martin The planets were found via what’s called…

Why Classical Music Snubbed Pluto, Too

It’s been four years since the International Astronomical Union (IAU) ruled that Pluto is no longer a planet, and the subject remains almost as divisive as the political rumble over climate change. But it turns out that Pluto was creating kerfuffles almost from the moment it was discovered—even among world-reknowned composers. If [like me] you’re…

Springtime for Phoenix, Summer on Triton

Update: Even as I was typing this, the HiRISE team was posting a brand-new picture of a Martian avalanche! Check it out below … Spring is in bloom on Earth’s Northern Hemisphere, melting snows, coaxing out budding leaves on trees, and otherwise making its mark on the landscape. On northern Mars, spring has been revving…

Johannes Kepler: One of Newton’s Giants?

First, allow me to extend a warm welcome to the 3,500+ astronomers, astronomy buffs, writers, friends, and family now in Washington, D.C., for the 215th meeting of the American Astronomical Society. Welcome to my home town, and thanks for bringing the meeting to me for a change! —Image courtesy NASA Day One of the conference…

Planetary Trivia: What’s the Mass of Uranus?

All eyes swiveled toward me when the tie-breaker question was asked at last week’s pub quiz: How many times Earth’s mass is that of Uranus? [insert suppressed giggle here] Think you know? Think carefully. This is pub quiz after all, not Jeopardy—who’s to say the question writers knew the difference between size and mass? On…

Exploring Uranus

Sometimes it seems like being large, distant, and gassy is a major turn-off for space engineers—unless you’ve got great eyes or lots of jewelry. Of the eight recognized planets in our solar system, the terrestrial worlds are by far the in-crowd as far as scientific orbiters are concerned, with Mars and Earth as the obvious…

Stormy Saturn and Some Space Trivia

Move over, Mars, you’re not the only act in town that can show folks some extreme weather. The orbiting Cassini spacecraft took this image, released today by NASA, of Saturn’s northern latitudes, including an edge of the planet’s famed atmospheric hexagon that swirls around its north pole. —Image courtesy NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute The tight, high-resolution…