Dan Vergano

India’s new entrant into orbit around Mars, the Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), is a triumph for its  space agency and represents the fourth country to successfully send a spacecraft to the red planet. At a reported cost of $73 million, the mission is also a feat for lower cost exploration. Launched on November 5, 2013,…

Changing Planet

Headline-grabbing observations of primordial gravity waves now face cloudy prospects, suggests a newly released satellite map of cosmic dust. In March, the South Pole-based BICEP2 physics team reported seeing the surprisingly strong signature of gravitational waves in maps of the cosmic microwave background (CMB). Filling the sky, the CMB is thought to be residual heat…

Changing Planet

  The science of shooting stars owes much to a storied episode of crowdsourcing, a new historical report shows, kicked off by a stunning 1833 meteor shower. Astronomers have increasingly turned to “citizen science” in the Internet era, setting up everyday folks to look for everything from alien worlds to the Milky Way’s galactic gas bubbles. But in a new Endeavour journal report,…

Human Journey

Living off the land looks like the key to survival on Mars, so NASA’s next red planet rover will help show the way by brewing up its own oxygen, the space agency announced Thursday. The oxygen brewing effort is a prototype of a proposed technology that might someday provide Mars explorers with oxygen, both for…

Changing Planet

  Erupting from fractures, 101 geysers dot the surface of Saturn’s frozen moon, Enceladus, report NASA scientists. First spotted as plumes in 2005, the total number of geysers has been revealed by a long series of overflights by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft. The geysers are “not a near-surface phenomenon but have much deeper roots,”  says Cassini imaging…

Changing Planet

Even in space, astronauts can’t escape troubles on Earth. International Space Station crew member Alexander Gerst tweeted an image of  “explosions and rockets” flying over Gaza and Israel on Wednesday night, which was retweeted and liked tens of thousands of times. The European Space Agency astronaut is aboard the orbiting lab, which travels some 261 miles (420 kilometers)…

Human Journey

Name that planet! Even astronomers have grown weary of planet discoveries with names that only a robot could remember, and on Wednesday they unveiled a new worldwide alien planet naming contest. Announced by the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the NameExoWorlds contest offers the public the chance to vote on more memorable names for some 305 planets…

Changing Planet

  A carbon-dioxide-monitoring satellite successfully reached orbit on Wednesday morning, NASA officials announced, replacing one lost after a failed launch five years ago. The $475 million Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) mission will map carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, watching the Earth “breathe” in the words of NASA mission manager Betsy Edwards. A greenhouse gas,…

Changing Planet

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope will begin searching for an icy world beyond Pluto that could use some exploring, the space agency announced Monday. The  goal: finding a place for the fast-moving New Horizons spacecraft to explore after it visits Pluto next year. (Related: “Global Selfie to Be Beamed to Outer Space.”) Hubble will begin scouring the…

Changing Planet

Asteroids zip by Earth all the time, but not many make as big an impression as “The Beast,” which caromed past our astronomical neighborhood about a week ago. Now, radar observations released by NASA reveal the hidden looks of asteroid HQ124 (the formal designation of The Beast). They were taken at its closest approach to…

Changing Planet

On the hunt for alien worlds, NASA has approved a new mission for the Kepler spacecraft, despite a crippling breakdown in 2013 that seemed to mark the end of its work forever. (See: “New Role for Disabled Kepler?”) Launched in 2009, the original $600 million Kepler mission discovered more than half of all known planets orbiting nearby…

Wildlife

Everyone loves cartoons, even cosmologists. They just call them simulations. Now, one of the great triumphs of modern cosmology—our understanding of how the universe evolved its kaleidoscope of stars, worlds, and galaxies—has been visualized in its first realistic simulation: “Until now, no single simulation was able to reproduce the universe on both large and small scales…

Changing Planet

The jumbo jet that first carried a space shuttle coast to coast will land in a museum next month, scheduled to forever bear a copy of its most famous passenger. NASA 905 was the first of two Boeing 747 passenger jets modified by the space agency to wing space shuttles from landing runways back to…

Wildlife