Enjoying EarthSky? Subscribe.

211,908 subscribers and counting ...

631px-FullMoon2010

Shortest lunar month of 2016 starts May 6

Although the lunar month has a mean period of 29 days 12 hours and 44 minutes, the actual length varies throughout the year. Lengths of lunar months in 2016.

Artist's impression of the unique object C/2014 S3 (PANSTARRS). Observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope, and the Canada France Hawai`i Telescope, show that this is the first object to be discovered that is on a long-period cometary orbit, but that has the characteristics of a pristine inner Solar System asteroid. It may provide important clues about how the Solar System formed. Because the object has spent most of its life away from the inner Solar System it suffered very few collisions, and its surface displays few or no craters. As it formed in the same region as the Earth did, it is mostly rocky, and therefore has only very limited cometary activity.

Orbit like a comet, rocky like an asteroid

They’re calling it a Manx comet, after the cats with no tails. It may have formed in the inner solar system and been ejected outward.

View larger. | As January, 2016, opens, there are four planets in the predawn sky.  Ben Zavala caught them on January 4, 2015.  Thanks, Ben!

Astronomical events in 2016

A month by month listing of major moon phases, conjunctions, oppositions, meteor showers and other important dates, from astronomer Fred Espenak.

Photo via BreakthroughInitiatives.org.

Breakthrough Starshot aims for Alpha Centauri

Breakthrough Starshot seeks proof of concept for a 100-million-mile-per-hour mission – using light-propelled nanocrafts – to reach the nearest star in 20 years.

starship_cropped

How long would it take to get to Alpha Centauri?

Read about star travel via conventional propulsion, warp drives, and more.

Jan Oort. Copyright Leiden Observatory. Used with permission.

This date in science: Jan Oort’s birthday

Visualize a vast reservoir of icy comets on the outskirts of our solar system. That’s what Jan Oort did in 1950, and why the Oort Cloud bears his name.

rainbow-red-venus-2-9-2016-Frances-Pelletier-Myrtle-Beach-SC-sq

What makes a red rainbow?

Red rainbows happen when the sun is on the horizon. They’re created in much the same process that causes a sunset or sunrise to look red.

Discovery image for first-ever known moon orbiting the remote dwarf planet Makemake.

Dwarf planet Makemake has a moon

This Hubble Space Telescope image reveals the first moon ever discovered around little Makemake, in the outermost region of our solar system.

Venus Express aerobraking. Image credit: ESA - C. Carreau

What Venus Express learned by aerobraking

Results from the Venus Express spacecraft, obtained when – in the craft’s final months – it surfed the dense atmosphere of Venus.

Moon rocks collected b Apollo astronauts have been found to contain an element created only by supernovae. Here, Apollo 12-astronaut Alan Bean takes a sample of the lunar surface. Photo via NASA.

Moon rocks reveal nearby supernova

Iron-60 found in moon rocks supports an earlier finding that – 2 million years ago – a supernova exploded only 300 light-years away.