JOEL LASH: This is the diagnostic package that’s going on this week’s experiments... Joel Lash manages the world’s largest X-ray machine. It doesn’t look for broken bones or bad teeth, though. Its main job is to help maintain America’s nuclear...
Some of the faintest stars that are visible to the unaided eye are really some of the most impressive stars of all. They look faint only because they’re a long way off. In fact, they’re so far away that they must be truly remarkable for us to see them...
Sometimes, astronomy can be just plain weird. The darkest objects in the universe can also be some of the brightest, for example, and many of the objects visible to our telescopes no longer exist. Both of those apply to a star system in the Pinwheel...
Black Hole Collisions
It’s dangerous out there. Earth is threatened by asteroids and comets, storms on the Sun, and exploding stars, among other things. Fortunately, though, a recent study has some good news about another celestial danger: If a black hole hit Earth, you...
The objects known as brown dwarfs are oddballs. They’re heavier than planets, but not heavy enough to trigger the nuclear reactions that would make them shine as true stars. In fact, they’re often described as failed stars. Yet they share some traits...
Moon and Aldebaran
The Moon is a steady, unchanging companion. We always see the same “face” — the same lunar hemisphere always faces our way. But it turns out that we actually see more than just the face — we see a little behind the ears, too, thanks to a combination...
Earth Impacts III
More than 3,000 years ago, Egyptian jewelers fashioned a magnificent brooch for the pharaoh Tutankhamen. Its centerpiece was a scarab beetle made of golden glass — a representation of the Sun god, Re. The glass itself was formed when a fireball...
It’s been almost a year since a small asteroid exploded above Siberia, shattering windows for miles around. The blast was like a warning shot fired across the bow of a ship — a reminder that a lot worse could follow. In fact, a lot worse has happened...
Mars Exploration Rovers
The first of a pair of Mars rovers bounced to a halt on the Red Planet 10 years ago this week. In the decade since, they’ve driven almost 30 miles while revealing important details about Mars’s history. Spirit was the first of the Mars Exploration...
Earth is snuggling especially close to the two most dominant objects in the solar system right now — the Sun and the planet Jupiter. They’re on opposite sides of Earth, so Jupiter shines all night long. Tomorrow, Earth will be closest to the Sun for...
The streams of debris that create meteor showers are spawned by comets or asteroids — chunks of ice and rock that lose material from their surfaces when they get close to the Sun. The parentage of most of these streams is pretty well known. But one is...
Earth is being pelted by comet dust this week — the small grains of rock and dirt that make up the Quadrantid meteor shower. The bigger ones will vaporize as they zip into Earth’s atmosphere, forming the streaks of light known as meteors. We’ll have...
In late 1933, McDonald Observatory was starting to come together. Crews broke ground for the Observatory’s first telescope in November, and the contractor, Warner and Swasey, was building the telescope dome and tube at its headquarters in Cleveland....
The planet Venus is about to change addresses. It’s been shining as the brilliant “evening star” for several months now. But in just a few days it’ll leave the evening sky and move into the morning sky. It will reign as the “morning star” for most of...
New Year’s Eve is almost upon us — a time when just about everybody is up and about at midnight. And coincidentally, it’s a good time of year to watch the midnight sky, which hosts some of the brightest stars and most beautiful constellations in the...
Life of Procyon
A nearby stellar neighbor climbs into good view at this time of year. Procyon is the leading light of Canis Minor, the little dog, so it’s known as the Little Dog Star. It’s only about 11 light-years away, so it shines brightly in our sky. It’s low in...
Moon and Saturn
Seismologists use earthquakes to study the structure of the planet beneath our feet. And now, astronomers may use something similar to probe the interior of the planet Saturn. Saturn is a very different world from Earth. It’s almost a hundred times...
Forty years ago this week, Czech astronomer Lubos Kohoutek was talking to the people with the best view of a comet he’d discovered a few months earlier — the astronauts aboard the Skylab space station. KOHOUTEK: It is a great pleasure for me to greet...
Moon and Companions
Over the decades, Mars has been at the center of many controversies, some of which have concerned the question of life. The most famous is the idea that an ancient civilization built a network of canals across the Red Planet. And another controversy...
Moon and Mars
The Moon and the planet Mars will form a beautiful Christmas-morning decoration tomorrow. They’ll stand high in the south at first light, with orange Mars close to the upper left of the Moon. As a bonus, the bright star Spica will stand to their lower...
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