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MAVEN Arrives in Martian Orbit

MAVEN and Mars, two great things that now go together.

Lopsided Supernova Blasts Uncovered

Some jumbo stars commit stellar suicide in surprisingly lumpy explosions, according to a new study in Nature. Scientists led by Caltech’s Brian Grefenstette looked at Cassiopeia A, a supernova that first appeared in nighttime skies around the year 1670. The supernova’s wispy remnants rest some 11,000 light-years away from Earth, stretched across some 59 trillion miles (95 trillion…

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…

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.

A Grand Tour of the Universe

Armchair astronomers take note: This space atlas is for you. Yes, that kind of atlas—a series of maps and charts that evokes the ability to navigate a place, usually by ship or some sort of vehicle. The maps are remarkably detailed—Mercury’s surface incorporates the latest data from the orbiting Messenger spacecraft and the crater names might surprise you (Mark Twain, Botticelli, Dali, Shakespeare). On Venus nearly every feature is named after goddesses or famous women.

NASA’s New Station-Spotting Service

If you have ever thought it would be cool to watch the International Space Station in the sky, NASA is making it a lot easier to do just that. A new website sends alerts to skywatchers wanting to catch the space outpost flying over their backyard.

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…

Dragon Spits Shooting Stars

This long weekend skywatchers get to see the annual peak of the Draconid meteor shower. While not the most prolific cosmic fireworks show it reliably puts on a nice display and this year with the moon out of the way – sky conditions are set to be ideal. Like other meteor showers the Draconids get…

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.