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JAXA confirms 2 rovers landed successfully on asteroid Ryugu

Japan’s space agency JAXA said the pair of tiny robots – released by the Hayabusa2 space probe – touched down Saturday on asteroid Ryugu. See the images here.

A new way to launch rockets without fuel?

Conventional rockets – with their onboard fuel – are expensive and dangerous. A new “quantized inertia” concept might make rocket launches cheaper and safer. The concept has just received $1.3 million in new funding.

Here’s what closed Sunspot Solar Observatory

Federal court documents this week revealed an FBI investigation of a janitor suspected of using Sunspot Solar Observatory’s internet connection to send and receive child pornography.

Were the 2 Magellanic Clouds once 3?

A new study suggests that the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds – small satellite galaxies to our Milky Way – might have once had a 3rd companion.

Life imitates art? Astronomers find Star Trek planet Vulcan

In recent decades, astronomers and Trekkies had fun speculating on what might serve as Spock’s home star. Many settled on 40 Eridani A, about 16 light-years away. Now a Vulcan-esque planet has been found for this star!

spacecraft voyager 1

Here’s the 1st-ever portrait of Earth and moon from a distance

On September 18, 1977, as it headed toward the outer solar system, Voyager 1 looked back and acquired a stunning image of our Earth and moon.

Dry ice frosts a Mars crater

The white markings here are bright residual carbon dioxide ice deposits – dry ice – on the┬ásouth-facing rim of a pit crater on Mars.

TESS planet-hunter achieves 1st light

Launched last April, TESS is successor to the Kepler mission, which discovered a substantial fraction of all known exoplanets orbiting distant suns. This 1st-light image from TESS is cause for celebration. Ahoy! New worlds ahead!

Report calls for direct images of Earth-like exoplanets

A congressionally-mandated report recommends that NASA lead efforts to directly image possibly Earth-like exoplanets, using upcoming technologies. A major goal is finding habitable – maybe even inhabited – worlds.

Mars is closest to the sun today

On September 16, 2018, Mars reaches perihelion, its closest point to the sun in its 2-year orbit. Mars’ brightness in July and August – and a recent global dust storm on the planet – are both linked to this event.

It’s been a year since Cassini plunged into Saturn

On September 15, 2017, the Cassini spacecraft plunged into Saturn, ending its spectacular mission. Cassini’s last images and final moments, here.

Here’s how Hubble sees Saturn

Cassini ended its 13-year mission at Saturn a year ago, when it plunged into the giant planet’s atmosphere. Now the Hubble Space Telescope is keeping an eye on the planet.

NASA starts 45-day signaling period for Mars rover

The solar-powered Opportunity rover has been silent since June, when a Mars dust storm blotted out the sun over its location. Now the air is clearing. Will the rover respond?

Alien-hunting AI discovers dozens of mysterious fast radio bursts

Astronomers with the Breakthrough Listen program used AI (artificial intelligence) to find 72 repeating, short, unpredictable radio bursts, from a mysterious source 3 billion light years away.

Landslides and avalanches keep comets active

Landslides and avalanches on comets might keep them active, when closest to the sun, much longer than expected. They might even bring some dormant comets back to life!

Best pics of the comet as it swept safely past

Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner came closer to Earth this week than it had in 72 years. Favorite photos here, from the EarthSky community. Plus info on comet Wirtanen, which might become visible to the eye alone later this year.

What is the Hypatia Catalog?

The Hypatia Catalog uses “big data” – extremely large data sets – hopefully to reveal patterns, trends, and associations that might lead to finding distant worlds harboring life.

What is a parsec?

Why do professional astronomers speak of distances in the universe not in terms of light-years, but in terms of parsecs, a distance of 3.26 light-years? Explanation here.

Stand on Mars, look around

Of course you can’t really stand on Mars. But you can do the next best thing with this cool new 360-degree interactive panorama from NASA’s Curiosity rover. Notice the settling dust!

How black holes bring white dwarfs back to life

White dwarfs are the dead remnants of larger, once-active stars like our sun. But black holes can reignite them.