Detection of phosphine in Venus’ clouds is a big deal as it may be a sign of life

Comet of the Week: The Great Comet of 1882

Special Topic: Carbonaceous Chondrites

Special Topic: Comet Tails

Twin spacecraft to study “rubble pile” binary asteroids

Special Topic: Deflection Strategies

Boeing Starliner orbital test flight to ISS targeted for December

5 ways families can enjoy astronomy during the pandemic

Special Topic: “Small Bodies” Moons

Special Topic: The Kuiper Belt

Blue Origin-led team delivers lunar lander mockup to NASA

Four astronomical discoveries from ancient Greece

Special Topic: Interplanetary Dust

SpaceX launch of Crew-1 mission set for Oct. 23

Special Topic: The “Building Blocks” of Life

From the pyramids to Stonehenge – were prehistoric people astronomers?

Special Topic: Small Planetary Moons

Grounded by pandemic, NASA interns keep researching

UAE’s Mars mission aims to inspire citizens to pursue STEM fields

SpaceX Crew Dragon pinpoints first-ever splashdown in Gulf of Mexico

10 Days in July: Trio of nations launch separate missions to Mars

Special Topic: Life in Martian Meteorites?

Comet of the Week: NEOWISE C/2020 F3

Special Topic: Terrestrial Impact Craters

All About Mars

Gazing upon Mars

Mars 2020 Mission Overview

Building for Mars

Mars Exploration Historical Timeline

QuizMe: Mars Exploration

Project: Make a paper Mars helicopter

Go outside and view Comet NEOWISE before it disappears for 6800 years

Comet of the Week: Hale-Bopp C/1995 O1

Special Topic: Discoveries and Surveys

Scientists on their favorite science fiction

Damage from Hurricane Sally to our home base of Pensacola, Florida has led to a disruption of our regular publishing schedule. We will resume normal operations as soon as possible.

Most Recent Articles

On Sept. 14, 2020, a new planet was added to the list of potentially habitable worlds in the Solar System: Venus. Phosphine, a toxic gas made up of one phosphorus and three hydrogen atoms (PH₃), commonly produced by organic life forms but otherwise difficult to make on rocky planets, was discovered in the middle layer …

SEPTEMBER 27, 1858: A British portrait painter and photographer, William Usherwood, takes a photograph of Comet Donati 1858 VI, the first photograph ever taken of a comet. No copies of Usherwood’s photograph are known to exist. Comet Donati is next week’s “Comet of the Week.”  SEPTEMBER 27, 1990: The Hubble Space Telescope observes Comet Levy …

Perihelion: 1882 September 17.72, q = 0.008 AU  What can arguably be considered as one of the brightest and most spectacular comets of the entire 2nd Millennium was a Kreutz sungrazer, one of the most pre-eminent representatives of that class of objects that is the subject of a future “Special Topics” presentation. It was first …

In an earlier “Special Topics” presentation I described how meteorites are classified based upon their respective compositions. As I indicated in that presentation, the majority of known meteorites are the “stony” meteorites composed primarily of various silicates, and of these, most contain small, roughly spherical particles called “chondrules” that are primarily made up of silicates …

SEPTEMBER 21, 2012: Two amateur astronomers, Vitali Nevski of Belarus and Artyom Novichonok of Russia, discover Comet ISON C/2012 S1 with a telescope of the International Scientific Optical Network located at Kislovodsk, Russia. Comet ISON was expected to become a brilliant object when near the sun and Earth in late 2013 but instead disintegrated as …

Perihelion: 1914 October 26.77, q = 1.104 AU  After the spectacular appearances of the Daylight Comet of 1910 and of Comet 1P/Halley later that same year – both of these objects having been discussed in previous “Ice and Stone 2020” presentations – the next few years brought some additional bright comets to Earth’s nighttime skies. …

Educational Resources

Ice and Stone 2020 is a new weekly series of educational material focusing on some of the small bodies of the solar system – comets and asteroids. The Earthrise Institute, a non-profit educational organization founded by Comet Hale-Bopp co-discoverer Alan Hale, is partnering with RocketSTEM and the La Cumbres Observatory to release the material for FREE online …

The United States and Canada are joining forces to encourage a new generation of astronauts. The two countries have cooperated on space exploration since soon after NASA, the U.S. space agency, was founded in 1958. Canada sends astronauts on NASA space missions, and it supplies technology for the International Space Station, among other space efforts. …

If you like numbers, you will love March 14, 2015. When written as a numerical date, it’s 3/14/15, corresponding to the first five digits of pi (3.1415) — a once-in-a-century coincidence! Pi Day, which would have been the 136th birthday of Albert Einstein, is a great excuse to eat pie, and to appreciate how important …

Interviews

“Do you know what they did down on the Moon? What those guys’ primary job was? They picked up rocks and dirt. Now, myself, in lunar orbit…” — Al Worden, Apollo 15 CMP USAF Colonel Alfred Worden served as Command Module Pilot for Apollo 15 – the fourth manned lunar landing mission. He also holds the …

On 20th November this year, a Union Jack Flag will be safely stored on board a Soyuz rocket, and, along with its owner, will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and make its way to the International Space Station. This is not the first time that a British born citizen has flown in space, …

Charley Kohlhase officially ‘retired’ from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1998. At his retirement party, a recording was played of Carl Sagan, who had died two years previously. ‘…. His voice suddenly, pleasingly rang through the room. From the afterlife, Sagan implored, “Charley Kohlhase’s name should be as well known as Michael Jordan’s!”’ (from ‘Ambassadors …

Shelf Space

Tales of strange alien worlds, fantastic future technologies and bowls of sentient petunias have long captivated audiences worldwide. But science fiction is more than just fantasy in space; it can educate, inspire and expand our imaginations to conceive of the universe as it might be. We invited scientists to highlight their favourite science fiction novel …

Piers Bizony is an accomplished science journalist, space historian and documentary film maker. His books have explored the enormity and spectacle of the Universe as well as focused all way down to the sheer emptiness of a single atom. In his 2017 book Moonshots, Bizony takes readers on a photographic journey of 50 years of …

All across America and throughout the world, celebrations are being held this month to mark the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11’s first landing on the Moon. Well-traveled author Jerome Pohlen was just a kid when the Saturn V rockets were launching astronauts to the Moon from 1968 until 1972, but that era still has left …

Earth and the ISS

The Histories by Herodotus (484BC to 425BC) offers a remarkable window into the world as it was known to the ancient Greeks in the mid-fifth century BC. Almost as interesting as what they knew, however, is what they did not know. This sets the baseline for the remarkable advances in their understanding over the next …

Ever since humans could look up to see the sky, we have been amazed by its beauty and untold mysteries. Naturally then, astronomy is often described as the oldest of the sciences, inspiring people for thousands of years. Celestial phenomena are featured in prehistoric cave paintings. And monuments such as the Great Pyramids of Giza …

Students selected for a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) summer program have continued conducting research in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic grounding their flight plans. NASA, which is responsible for the U.S. government’s civilian space program, selects several dozen college students each year for internships with its Student Airborne Research Program (SARP). Most summers …

Lunar Exploration

lunar lander mockup science class

The Blue Origin National Team of four US aerospace companies has delivered a full-scale engineering mockup of their proposed human lunar lander to NASA’s Johnson Space Center as part of NASA’s ambitious Artemis Moon program to return astronauts to the lunar surface by 2024. The Artemis Human Landing System (HLS) lander has been set up …

  Marking a big step forward towards launch, all ten of the powerful solid rocket booster (SRB) segments for NASA’s inaugural Space Launch System (SLS) rocket liftoff on the Artemis 1 Moon mission arrived by a train Monday afternoon at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida – thereby completing a 10-day cross country rail journey from their …

Marking a significant step forward in landing Americans on the Moon by 2024, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced the selection of three U.S. companies – Blue Origin, SpaceX and Dynetics – to design and develop the critical human landing systems (HLS) under the agency’s Artemis lunar landing program. Blue Origin won by far the largest …

Mars

Across a brief 10-day period covering mid to late July, the United Arab Emirates, China, and the United States each launched their own mission to explore Mars. For the UAE and China, it is their first solo attempt to reach the Red Planet, whereas the U.S. is continuing to build upon a legacy of success …

The planet Mars is probably the most studied planet, other than Earth, in our solar system. Like Earth, Mars is a terrestrial planet, as opposed to a gas planet like Jupiter for example. Mars is often referred to as the Red Planet, due to the brownish-red color of its surface caused by iron oxide in …

Throughout our exclusive Mars 2020 Exploration Mission Guide, we included a number of images of Mars captured by the plethora of orbiters, landers and rovers that the nations of Earth have sent to study the planet. Here we are including a large selection of those images. Many of the images are false-color or otherwise enhanced …

Around the Solar System

The solar system that everyone of us calls home is the fourth featured topic in our new QuizMe series of educational content. Put your knowledge to the test with these 10 questions about our tiny outpost within the galactic neighborhood. Afterward, please feel free to share your results and challenge your friends to take the …

Thanks to the advanced imaging capabilities of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in cooperation with other observatories, astronomers were able to identify and explain a rare and beautiful object in the distant sky: an active asteroid that is in the process of coming apart. The image of the asteroid known as 6478 Gault shows two narrow, comet-like tails …

When NASA scientists assembled telescopes in her home country of Senegal, Binita Yanni knew very little about astronomy and didn’t realize a career in planetary sciences was even a possibility. Determined to learn why 21 U.S. telescopes were stationed throughout the Senegalese countryside, the 20-year-old chemical engineering student approached lead scientist Adriana Ocampo on the …

Gazing at the Universe

Until now, everything we’ve known about black holes — celestial objects with intense gravitation — has been from theories and illustrations. Now, thanks to an international collaboration called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), a cosmic portrait of a supermassive black hole exists. At the center of the galaxy Messier 87 (M87) in the Virgo constellation, the …

For a planet, this would be like a day at the spa. After years of growing old, a massive planet could, in theory, brighten up with a radiant, youthful glow. Rejuvenated planets, as they are nicknamed, are only hypothetical. But new research from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has identified one such candidate, seemingly looking billions …

Whilst looking closely at a massive elliptical galaxy and its associated galaxy cluster MACS J1149+2223 — whose light took over 5 billion years to reach us — astronomers have spotted a strange and rare sight. The huge mass of the galaxy and the cluster is bending the light from a much more distant supernova behind …

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