Will you see BepiColombo’s goodbye flyby tonight?

BepiColombo is a spacecraft on a roundabout journey to Mercury. It’ll sweep near Earth tonight, using Earth as a gravity slingshot to send it hurtling toward the inner solar system. For most of us, BepiColombo will pass unseen. But people with telescopes might spot it! Charts and more here.

Large space rock passing near Earth.

Here’s how to see that huge asteroid that’ll safely pass Earth in April

A huge asteroid – (52768) 1998 OR2 – will pass closest to Earth on April 29. Astronomers at Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico begin detailed observations today. Charts, tips – plus how to watch online – here.

Comet ATLAS possibly disintegrating.

Is bright Comet ATLAS disintegrating?

Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) has been fainter during the last few nights. It’s possible it’s disintegrating (as comets sometimes do), although it’s still possible ATLAS will survive. Details here.

Crescent Mercury.

Was Mercury once habitable?

As unlikely as it may sound, Mercury may have once been able to support subsurface microscopic life, according to a new study from the Planetary Science Institute.

Multi-colored rocky planet with smaller gray moon.

Jupiter gives us Pluto in 2020

Jupiter and Pluto stay close together on the sky’s dome throughout 2020. This year may well present the best Jupiter-Pluto alignment for centuries to come, with the first of the year’s 3 Jupiter-Pluto conjunctions to fall on April 5, 2020.

Three connected boxes with what looks like different configurations of galaxies and voids inside.

What is dark energy?

Dark energy is one of the great unsolved mysteries of cosmology. It’s now thought to make up 68% of everything in the universe.

Egg-shaped little planet, spinning.

Astronomers announce 100 new minor planets beyond Neptune

They’re called trans-Neptunian objects, or TNOs. Astronomers analyzed data from the Dark Energy Survey – which just completed 6 years of observations – to find over 100 new little worlds in the cold outer reaches of our solar system.

A swirling disk with 2 jets at either pole.

Quasar tsunamis rip across galaxies

Astronomers using the Hubble Telescope found that the region around a quasar’s black hole pushes out material at a few percent the speed of light. These quasar tsunamis wreak havoc on the galaxies in which the quasars live.

Rectangular object on top of a penny.

Will we soon see potentially habitable exoplanets more clearly?

Because stars are so much brighter than their planets, we’ve barely begun to glimpse distant exoplanets, or planets orbiting distant stars. Now a new technology promises to provide better imaging of these potentially habitable exoworlds.

Mechanical rover in middle of brownish rocky landscape, with text annotations.

See Curiosity’s epic new selfie from Mars

NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover has taken a beautiful new selfie.

Poster-like view of man flying with umbrella with red wall of clouds behind him.

Meet the giant exoplanet where it rains iron

The temperatures on the day side of giant exoplanet WASP-76b are scorching, high enough for metals to be vaporized. But the night side is cooler, and winds carry an iron “rain” from the day side to the night side.

Reddish rocks with haze and hills in background.

What’s cool about Curiosity’s discovery of organic molecules on Mars

The Curiosity rover has found organic molecules called thiophenes, which, on Earth, are associated with biological systems. Are they evidence for once-living microbes on Mars?

Dark gray rock with lighter-colored spots.

Have the first proteins been found in meteorites?

Researchers say they’ve discovered the first complete proteins inside 2 meteorites. It’s tantalizing, since proteins play a key role in the cells of living creatures. But will the results hold up to scrutiny?

Bright white and yellow globe with small dark oval in front of it.

What if super-puff planets have rings?

All 4 of the gas giant planets in our solar system – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune – are known to have rings. Could many of the so-called super-puff or cotton candy exoplanets have rings instead of super low densities?

What is the gegenschein?

The sun’s counterglow – or gegenschein – is kind of a stargazers’ legend. What is it, and how can you see it? Erwin Matys and Karoline Mrazek of Project Nightflight explain.

Blue ball with white swirls.

And now, a word from Juno at Jupiter

Juno arrived at Jupiter in 2016. It’s in a 53-day orbit around the planet. Close sweeps past the planet are called “perijoves” (peri means “near”). Here are some spectacular images from the most recent sweep, Perijove 25, in February.

A ball of stars: globular cluster M13

What is a globular cluster?

Globular clusters are spherical collections of up to perhaps a million stars, orbiting mostly in the star halo of spiral galaxies, containing some of a galaxy’s oldest stars.

Curiosity rover on Mars snags highest-resolution panorama yet

This just in … a new super-cool composite from Curiosity on Mars. The panorama contains more than 1,000 images taken last Thanksgiving and assembled over the past few months … 1.8 billion new pixels of Martian landscape!

The misty heart of a nebula, showing a pair of bright stars.

The force is strong in neutron stars

Physicists at MIT analyzed data from earlier experiments in particle accelerators, in order to probe the workings of the strong nuclear force that operates inside atoms. Their work sheds light on this force – one of the 4 fundamental forces of nature – and also illuminates the structure of a neutron star’s core.

Thin rings and broad gray band on black background.

Could K2-18b be habitable after all?

A new study by researchers at Cambridge University suggests that the giant exoplanet K2-18b – a mini-Neptune – may be more potentially habitable than previously thought.