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Hubble Space Telescope’s New Classic

This past Saturday, April 24, marked 20 years since the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope aboard the space shuttle Discovery. Hubble was released into orbit the following day, but it wasn’t until May that astronomers got a look at the first pictures from their shiny new observatory. The scientists—and eager members of the public…

Earth Day at 40: Home From Space

It’s Earth Day, a day set aside for focusing on taking better care of our home planet. The first Earth Day in 1970 was very much a grassroots campaign, driven by activists sending a wake-up call to governments that we need to clean up our polluted air, water, and soil. That initial event 40 years…

Discovery Comes Home

After traveling more than 6.2 million miles in just over 15 days, the space shuttle Discovery glided back to Earth this morning, touching down at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center at 9:08 a.m. local time. —Photo courtesy NASA/Bill Ingalls The mission, known as STS-131 among NASA folk, marks the second of the “final five” launches of…

Pac-Man on the Moon

Saturn’s moon Mimas must be a fan of 1980s pop culture. Not satisfied with being labeled the “Death Star moon,” Mimas has now decided to host an interplanetary game of Pac-Man. paku-paku, paku-paku Scientists working with NASA’s Cassini orbiter yesterday released the highest resolution heat map to date of daytime temperatures on the icy moon.…

“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…

Martian “Weather Satellite” Has Dust in its Eye

Any allergy sufferer will tell you that dust can be a killer. But those dust bunnies under the couch have nothing on the planet-wide storms that periodically engulf Mars in late spring and early summer. —Image courtesy NASA, J. Ball (Cornell), M. Wolff (SSI), and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) Such storms are kind of…

Mars Orbiter Takes an Unscheduled Breather

In the animal world, the fight-or-flight instinct is a pretty common response to danger. But when you’re a multimillion-dollar spacecraft, caution is usually the only response you get preprogrammed with. Adding to poor beleaguered NASA’s spate of recent glitches, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter went into safe mode on Monday after suffering what appears to have…

HiRISE Spies a Young Martian Crater

By now folks used to reading about Mars have gotten pretty spoiled by the amazing images from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. This fabulous camera came online in 2006 and returned its first color images of Mars in 2007. The current catalog of more than 8,700 images is…

Southern Lights Set the Sky Aflame

Is it just me, or has it been a slow week so far for space news post-AAS? Admittedly, on the last night of the conference astronomers party like they mean it, as I discovered last year during the winter Austin meeting and had confirmed for me this year in Long Beach. [But that’s just a…

Searching For Other Earths? Send a Flower Into Space

Imagine trying to spot a moth flying around the rim of a searchlight. If the light is a few feet from you, there’s a chance you would catch the occasional flicker of motion, but the moth would be largely hidden by the glare. Now imagine the spotlight shines as bright as the sun and is…

Biggest Full Moon Photos

As luck would have it, the weather just did not feel like playing nice with me today. I was super excited to see the rain clear up over Washington, D.C., this morning, and I got a couple nice peeks of tonight’s biggest full moon of the year as I was walking home. By the time…

Solar Conjunction: Mars Missions Take a Load Off

The holiday season has officially descended upon us, and many a child is eagerly waiting for that jolly red roundness with a snowy white cap to appear in the sky. Meanwhile, anyone whose day job requires listening for and deciphering radio signals from Mars is probably only too glad that white-capped red ball has hidden…

And the Winner Is …

Jamieanne Hassler of Indianapolis! This self-described cupcake addict baked up an amazingly creative version of Jupiter that, well, takes the cake in our Planetology cupcake contest. It really has been Jupiter’s lucky week so far: a new orbiter, an intriguing new study of its core, and now a sweet homage in the form of a…

Behind the Burqa: A Woman Photographer’s View of Afghanistan

Photo by Farzana Wahidy Under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, women’s rights were completely stripped away. Women were not allowed to pursue their education, all girls’ schools were closed down, women were not allowed to work, and they were ordered to remain in their houses. Raised in Afghanistan during the Taliban era, Farzana Wahidy was…