Some Apollo Moon landing folklore appears to have bitten the dust. The Apollo 12 Moon landing mission brought back the camera from the Surveyor 3 spacecraft, which had landed on the Moon two and a half years earlier. NASA discovered Earthly microbes that had seemingly survived several years in the Moon's harsh environment. But now, new research indicates otherwise.
Interacting pairs and groups of galaxies seem to be common in the universe. For 21 years, the Hubble Space Telescope has been providing beautiful images of such encounters along with amazing images of all kinds of other objects. Hubble took an anniversary image of interacting galaxy Arp 273, showing the beautiful but disturbed spiral structure of the main galaxy. The star formation and distortion apparent is most likely due to interaction with at least one, and possibly two, smaller galaxies in the vicinity.
Four planets line up in space in May's predawn sky. Mercury, Venus, Mars and Jupiter all appear as the sky brightens before dawn. Southern hemisphere residents have the best view, but northerners will need to find a low, clear horizon to see them all.
The solar system contains many small objects in addition to the well-known planets, moons and large asteroids. Some of these objects linger around the planets, and Earth has its own collection. Astronomers recently discovered a new member of this group, an asteroid with an orbit almost identical to Earth's orbit around the Sun. Due to gravitational perturbations caused by Earth, the asteroid drifts slightly in its orbit, so relative to Earth and the Sun it appears to be in a "horseshoe" shaped orbit. These orbits are very rare, and only a few were previously known.
For the first time, scientists have captured signs of rain appearing on Saturn's giant moon, Titan, at latitudes close to the equator, where conditions have been dry for years. At Titan's frigid temperatures, the precipitation that descends is not water rain, but methane rain.
A strange green blob creeps up on an unsuspecting galaxy. And Hubble monitors a cosmic explosion unlike anything ever seen before.
NASA's SWIFT satellite is very productive at detecting blasts of gamma ray radiation from stars and black holes. Recently it detected an unusual explosion. The mystery explosion was more energetic and lasted longer than other such blasts. Astronomers used many telescopes, including the CHANDRA X-ray Observatory and the Hubble Space Telescope, to study the object. Is it a star being ripped apart by a supermassive black hole in the center of a galaxy?
NASA's Messenger spacecraft became the first spacecraft to enter orbit around the planet Mercury on March 17, 2011. It could help solve a number of lingering mysteries about this sweltering world close to the Sun.
REBROADCAST -- Solar eclipses come in several varieties and provide spectacular views for observers on the Earth. As the Moon moves between the Earth and the Sun, the Moon's shadow is cast into space. Sometimes this shadow intersects the Earth. Eclipses can be total, when the Moon completely obscures the Sun; grazing, when the Moon only covers part of the Sun; and annular, when the Moon and Sun are aligned, but the Moon does not cover the Sun completely. Eclipse shadows are visible to satellites that observe the Earth. In some cases, the images are quite spectacular, and show the path of the eclipse across the planet.
Most of the searches for planets that could support life are focused on looking at stars. For life to form and survive, at least water-based life, the planet needs to be at a particular location in proximity to its star so that the temperature is just right. New computer simulations suggest that life might actually survive on a "rogue planet" that has been ejected from its planetary system through gravitational interaction with other planets. With a blanket of ice and geothermal heating, life on such a wandering planet might exist.... For a while.
A new image from Chile's Gemini Observatory shows previously hidden details at the center of the unstable Eta Carinae star system. The high-resolution view begins to reveal the secrets of the star system's outburst in 1843, when it became the second brightest star in the sky.
Evidence may be mounting that either a brown dwarf star or a gas giant planet exists at the far reaches of the solar system -? way beyond even Pluto. Named Tyche, it could be four times the size of our largest know planet, Jupiter, and 15,000 times farther from Sun than Earth.
NASA's Kepler mission is designed to discover planets. It looks for the dimming in a star that occurs as a passing planet blocks a tiny fraction of its star's light. The Kepler team has released new results that suggest that at least one system it examined contains several planets in the habitable zone, the area where water might exist. Water is a necessity for an environment that can sustain life as we know it.
Why the Sun's corona, or outer layer, is millions of degrees hotter than its surface is a long-standing mystery. A new discovery reveals a major source of hot gas that replenishes the corona -? jets of super-hot plasma that shoot up from just above the Sun's surface.
You've heard of Planet X -- the idea, popular with science fiction enthusiasts and conspiracy addicts, that there might be an undetected planet out there in our solar system. But how about Galaxy X? Astronomers using numerical models predict the presence of a dwarf galaxy 600,000 light years from the center of the Milky Way. The galaxy may be too faint to see in visible light ? but observers with infrared and radio telescopes could find it.
There's a pattern of forms of life on Earth growing both more and less diverse over time, and we may be able to trace it back to our solar system's path through the Milky Way galaxy. Every 60 million years or so, our solar system emerges north out of the average plane of the galaxy's disk, and the variety of Earthly life drops. It may be due to increased exposure to high-energy cosmic rays.
Many extrasolar planets have been found using the transit technique. This occurs when a planet blocks some of the light from its parent star as it orbits in front of it. If astronomers detect a repeating pattern, they can glean information about the planet's orbit. Most of these planets are very close to their host stars, and so they are very hot. A new record has been set in the WASP-33 system. The planet, called WASP-33b, appears to be 3200 degrees Celsius, or about 5800 Fahrenheit!
Hubble has located the faintest galaxy yet seen, a dim collection of blue stars that existed just 480 million years after the Big Bang. And astronomers find that tiny red dwarf stars can unleash mighty eruptions, making life difficult for any planets orbiting nearby.
The next mission to Titan could provide a true bird's-eye view of Saturn's moon. Scientists might send a balloon or a blimp cruising through its skies for months. NASA's Cassini spacecraft has been flying past Titan for several years, and the Huygens probe landed and sent back data during a 2005 descent to the surface, but many questions remain that could benefit from a long-term mission.
Astronomers are interested in finding out about the composition of the distant worlds now being discovered. A new observation from the Spitzer Space Telescope, combined with ground-based observations from the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope, reveals a planet that has an unusual amount of carbon in it. Its discovery highlights suggests that smaller, rocky planets made of carbon could exist. If so, they would contain graphite, diamond and tar.