The recent crash-landing of a satellite brought a lot of attention. So what will happen when the much larger International Space Station comes down? NASA has planned for the station's eventual demise. Unlike the recent satellite, the ISS will be de-orbited in controlled way, with all its debris falling into the ocean.
At the site of a supernova witnessed in 1987, the remnants of an exploded star are undergoing a transformation that astronomers are able to watch in detail for the first time. And new movies made from Hubble images taken over a span of 14 years show material shooting away from young stars and across space at supersonic speeds.
Cygnus X-1 was the first object identified as a black hole. While many black holes have been detected, the distance to Cygnus X-1 has been determined just recently. Knowing that this object is comprised of two components -- an evolving blue supergiant and a dark companion -- and with the new distance determination, it appears that indeed the dark companion is a black hole. In addition, new observations suggest the long-term fate of the pair.
Most of the black holes that generate powerful jets of charged particles are located in elliptical galaxies. Astronomers are now investigating an exotic new black hole, with powerful jets generated repeatedly, in a spiral galaxy. The galaxy, named Speca, may provide information about galaxies in the younger days of the universe.
A new object with the mass of Jupiter was recently discovered, and it's made of diamond -? a billion, billion, billion carat diamond floating through space! The planet was probably a white dwarf, stripped down to its core by a nearby pulsar.
Pluto, the most famous dwarf planet in the solar system, is known to have three moons. A new, tiny moon has been observed with the Hubble Space Telescope. The new moon is temporarily called "P4" and is a scant 8-21 miles across. These observations were made in support of the New Horizon mission, currently on its way to the Pluto system. Hubble data is helping scientists to understand what the system is like in advance of the mission's arrival.
A new image reveals a huge, amorphous nebula surrounding the famous red supergiant star Betelgeuse. The new images -- showing the stellar nebula in much greater detail than ever before, with the structures that look like flames originating from the star and stretching 40 billion miles into space -- come from the very Large Telescope in Chile.
Neptune is the solar system's farthest major planet from the Sun. Its larger neighbors, Jupiter and Saturn, draw a lot of attention, but Neptune has interesting weather patterns and differs from the two large gas planets in structure and composition. It's similar to its near-twin Uranus, and it even has a ragged ring system. Neptune has just completed its first full, 165-year orbit since its discovery in 1846. Hubble images commemorate the event.
New discoveries about planet Mercury are on the way from NASA's Messenger mission. Messenger is the first spacecraft to enter orbit around the smallest planet in our solar system. Exciting new clues to the planet's origin and its geology have begun accumulating.
In September 1859, Earth experienced one of the most powerful solar storms ever. The storm produced electrical currents that set telegraph offices afire and generated striking auroras as far south as Cuba and Hawaii. That type of storm could happen again, but with our increased dependence on electronics and satellites, the consequences would be much more severe.
Saturn's moon Enceladus is certainly an exotic place, spewing plumes of material from its atmosphere. The composition of the plumes suggested they may be venting from an icy source. Recent analysis suggests that perhaps the origin is actually some sort of ocean or salty sea below the moon's frozen surface.
It is assumed that the Sun and the planets formed from the same material. This is basically true, but painstaking analysis from the NASA Genesis satellite samples suggests an odd discrepancy. The Sun and Jupiter seem to have the same type of oxygen and nitrogen, while the inner planets and bodies, including Earth, are a bit different.
In 1987, a star in a nearby galaxy exploded. Astronomers in the southern hemisphere watched the supernova ignite in the sky. Shortly after the Hubble Space Telescope was launched in 1990, astronomers began observing the object, discovering a complex ring structure. Now the supernova is transitioning to the next stage, a supernova remnant.
The 90-mile-wide Gale Crater on Mars seems to leading the running for a landing site for Mars Science Laboratory rover, which will launch in November and arrive at Mars in August 2012. Gale has great variety of geologic formations that could help explain the history of Mars.
Something doesn't add up about the ages of "blue straggler" stars. And Hubble takes a picture of the star that revealed the true nature of the universe.
The Earth-Moon system has been studied in great detail and for many years. It has been theorized that the presence of the Moon has had a stabilizing effect on the spin of the Earth. This also has stabilized the atmosphere of the Earth because the tilt of the Earth's axis does not wobble much relative to the orbit of the Earth around the Sun. In contrast, the tilt of Mars has likely wobbled nearly sixty degrees, leaving that planet desert-like with a thin atmosphere.
In 1920, the nature of spiral nebulae, now known as spiral galaxies, was unknown. The scale and expansion of the universe were unknown as well. Astronomers debated whether the spiral objects they could see in the sky were within our galaxy or outside it. The astronomer Edwin Hubble devoted considerable time to observing stars in Andromeda, the largest known spiral nebula of the time. He found a variable star that demonstrated that Andromeda was far away -? and thus a separate galaxy. The first variable that Hubble found, known simply as "V1," has been observed with the Hubble Space Telescope almost 90 years after the first observations of the object.
Though NASA's Mars rover, Spirit, is now officially proclaimed dead, it won't be soon forgotten. NASA announced in May that it was ceasing any further attempts to raise Spirit. The spacecraft hasn't been heard from since March 2010. In its six-plus years operating on the Martian surface, Spirit and its twin rover, Opportunity, revolutionized our view of the Red Planet.
A giant cluster of elliptical galaxies, called Abell 383, contains a large amount of matter, including dark matter. It has formed what is called a gravitational lens. This lens distorts and magnifies light from the more distant objects behind it. This process helped astronomers observe a young galaxy that formed early in the universe. The characteristics of this new object help explain what happened at the very beginning of the universe, not very long after the Big Bang.