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First potentially habitable Earth-sized planet discovered

 The artist's concept depicts Kepler-186f, the first validated Earth-size planet orbiting a distant star in the habitable zone—a range of distances from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that Earth-size planets exist in the habitable zone of other stars and signals a significant step closer to finding a world similar to Earth. The artistic concept of Kepler-186f is the result of scientists and artists collaborating to help imagine the appearance of these distant worlds. Art Credit: Danielle Futselaar.

The artist’s concept depicts Kepler-186f, the first validated Earth-size planet orbiting a distant star in the habitable zone—a range of distances from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that Earth-size planets exist in the habitable zone of other stars and signals a significant step closer to finding a world similar to Earth. Art Credit: Danielle Futselaar.

The first Earth-sized exoplanet orbiting within the habitable zone of another star has been confirmed. The new planet, dubbed Kepler-186f, was discovered using NASA’s Kepler telescope.

Did vitamin B3 come from space?

Residue from a laboratory experiment simulating the conditions of interstellar space. The residue contained vitamin B3 (and related compounds) and may help explain meteorite chemistry. Image credit: Karen Smith

Residue from a laboratory experiment simulating the conditions of interstellar space. The residue contained vitamin B3 (and related compounds) and may help explain meteorite chemistry. Image credit: Karen Smith

Ancient Earth might have had an extraterrestrial supply of vitamin B3 delivered by carbon-rich meteorites, according to a new analysis by NASA-funded researchers. The result supports a theory that the origin of life may have been assisted by a supply of key molecules created in space and brought to Earth by comet and meteor impacts.

New cross section of the universe

Image credit: NASA/ESA

View larger. | Image credit: NASA/ESA

An image of a galaxy cluster taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope gives a remarkable cross-section of the universe, showing objects at different distances and stages in cosmic history. They range from cosmic near neighbors to objects seen in the early years of the universe. The 14-hour exposure shows objects around a billion times fainter than can be seen with the naked eye.

Neanderthals bred with modern humans, study confirms

Mating between modern humans and their Neanderthal ancestors, in Europe and Asia tens of thousands of years ago, is now the only plausible explanation for the genetic similarity between the two, say scientists.

Total lunar eclipse over Soda Butte Cone

Photo credit: Zack Clothier Photography

View larger. | Photo credit: Zack Clothier Photography

“Blood Moon” over Yellowstone by Zack Clothier Photography

Moon, red supergiant star Antares rise late on April 17-18

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The waning gibbous moon and the red supergiant star Antares won’t rise till around midnight, or later, on April 17-18 (at mid-northern latitudes). Once they’re up, however, they’ll be out for rest of the night. At mid-northern latitudes, the moon and Antares will rise in the east a few hours after the planet Saturn does.

Start looking for Lyrid meteors!

Lyrids and others via NASA/MSFC/D. Moser

Lyrids and others via NASA/MSFC/D. Moser

The Lyrid meteor shower’s peak morning is April 22, but you might see meteors before that date since we’re crossing the Lyrid meteor stream from about April 16 to 25.

Cosmic slurp: Where a black hole swallows a star

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Black Hole Caught Red-handed in a Stellar Homicide. [Credit: NASA; S. Gezari (The Johns Hopkins University); and J. Guillochon (University of California, Santa Cruz)]

Astronomers have identified galaxies where a central black hole just disrupted and ‘ate’ a star. It’s like a black hole putting up a sign that says: Here I am.

Unexpected teleconnections in noctilucent clouds

Researchers investigating “night-shining” clouds found something they weren’t even looking for: teleconnections in Earth’s atmosphere that stretch all the way from the North Pole to the South Pole and back again

Moon, Saturn from mid-evening until dawn on April 16-17

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On the night of April 16, people around the world will have to wait until mid-to-late evening to see the waning gibbous moon pairing up with the ringed planet Saturn. Once the moon and Saturn climb above the eastern horizon tonight, the twosome will adorn the nighttime until dawn. Look for the moon and Saturn in the east before going to bed tonight, and if you’re an early riser, look for them in the western sky before sunrise.

Rising time of the moon and Saturn in your sky

The moon and Saturn will pair up especially closely as seen from the Americas. In fact, the glare of the waning gibbous moon may obscure Saturn from view, so you might need binoculars to spot Saturn tonight. From South America, the moon will actually occult – cover over – Saturn, temporarily blocking the ringed planet from view.