Boeing slates Starliner test flight to ISS; SpaceX readies Crew-2 mission

Perseverance beams back incredible video of landing on Mars

What medicines should we take to Mars?

Perseverance pinpoints landing inside Jezero Crater

USGS astrogeology maps are guiding Mars 2020 mission

Bringing Mars rocks to Earth; scientist explains the tech, goals

UAE and China place missions into Mars orbit mere hours apart

Why the International Space Station is riddled with bacteria

Horgan passionate about studying Mars’ geology

Getting to sleep in space is hard – and not exactly restful for the mind and body

SpaceX launches record 143 satellites into polar orbit

Why are scientists trying to manufacture organs in space?

Curiosity celebrates 3,000 days since landing on Mars

China’s Chang’e-5 returns first lunar rock samples since 1976

Preparing for surgeries in space and on Mars

Special Topic: Putting It All Together

Hydrologist Fadji Maina’s path from Niger to NASA

Japan’s Hayabusa2 brings back dust and rock samples from asteroid

Comet of the Week: Lovejoy C/2011 W3

Special Topic: Formation of the Planets

Total solar eclipses reveal the dark and stormy side of the Sun we never see

Comet of the Week: The Great Comet of 1680

Five things that happen to your body in space

Special Topic: “Active Asteroids”

Special Topic: Sample Retrieval Missions

Ever since she was 10 years old, Fadji Maina knew she wanted to find solutions to water-scarcity problems, especially those in Zinder, Niger, where she grew up. Maina took a giant leap toward her goal earlier in September 2020 when she began work as a computational hydrologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. She became …


Japanese space scientists are positively gleeful as they have now confirmed that their ambitious Hayabusa2 spacecraft successfully collected over 5 grams of pristine black as coal soil and rock samples gathered from the ancient near-earth asteroid Ryugu in a re-entry capsule that parachuted safely to Earth earlier this month after a six-year roundtrip scientific journey …


DECEMBER 20, 1900: Michel Giacobini at Nice Observatory in France discovers the comet now known as Comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner. This is the parent comet of the Draconid meteor shower and is also the first comet to be visited by a spacecraft; it is a previous “Comet of the Week.”  DECEMBER 21, 1969: Comet Tago-Sato-Kosaka 1969g passes …


Perihelion: 2011 December 16.08, q = 0.006 AU  In the “Special Topics” presentation on Kreutz sungrazers eight weeks ago I mentioned that in 2007 Zdenek Sekanina and Paul Chodas published a paper wherein they predicted that a new “cluster” of sungrazers should be arriving within the next few decades, with “its earliest member possibly just several …


Ever since humankind began to discern the overall structure of the solar system a few centuries ago, i.e., that the sun basically resides in the center and the planets orbit around it, this has brought forth questions, for example, how did the planets, and the solar system as a whole, form? A second question would …


In astronomy, we have a common saying: “good luck, and clear skies”. For an eclipse chaser like me, this is especially important. We have two minutes and no second chance – one small cloud can spoil everything. Thousands of tourists turn up to see them, along with a few dozen scientists, for which the eclipse …


DECEMBER 13, 2012: China’s Chang’e 2 mission encounters the Apollo-type asteroid (4179) Toutatis, coming to within 3.2 km of the asteroid. Chang’e 2 and other missions to the solar system’s “small bodies” are discussed in a previous “Special Topics” presentation.  DECEMBER 14, 1807: A meteorite falls to the ground near Weston, Connecticut. An ordinary chondrite, …


Perihelion: 1680 December 18.49, q = 0.006 AU  This particular comet was undoubtedly one of the brightest comets of the 17th Century, but it is also one of the most important comets in history from a scientific perspective, and perhaps even from the perspective of overall human history. While there were certainly plenty of superstitions attached …


A detailed examination of a catalog of orbital elements of comets and/or asteroids will reveal that the orbits therein are not entirely random; rather, there will appear to be various objects that seem to share similar orbits. While in some instances these resemblances may be coincidental, in many more cases the similarities are real, and …


Tim Peake is the first official British astronaut to walk in space. The former Army Air Corps officer has spent six months in space, after blasting off on a Russian Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station on December 15, 2016, but the spacewalk doubtless was his most gruelling test. But what exactly did he …


DECEMBER 6, 1997: Jim Scotti with the Spacewatch program in Arizona discovers the Apollo-type asteroid now known as (35396) 1997 XF11. This asteroid created a major stir the following year when orbital calculations indicated a very close approach to Earth would be occurring in October 2028, and even though subsequent calculations with more data moved …


Perihelion: 2013 December 22.73, q = 0.812 AU  I’ve mentioned in some of the previous “Ice and Stone 2020” presentations that, until the appearance of Comet NEOWISE C/2020 F3 earlier this year, the northern hemisphere had not had what could be considered a “Great Comet” in well over two decades. We did have a moderately bright …


Ice And Stone 2020 Week 50 Throughout “Ice and Stone 2020” we have primarily been concerned with the objects we call “comets” and the objects we call “asteroids,” which collectively are “planetesimals” left over from the formation of the solar system. From an observational perspective, “asteroids” are stellar in appearance whereas “comets” are diffuse and …


NOVEMBER 29, 1996: A team of researchers led by Stewart Nozette publishes their paper describing the tentative detection of water ice at the moon’s south pole in radar experiments conducted with the U.S. Defense Department’s Clementine spacecraft. This detection has been confirmed by later spacecraft missions, and these efforts, and the overall significance of this …


Perihelion: 1992 December 12.32, q = 0.958 AU  One of the most prolific comet discoverers of the late 19th Century was the American amateur astronomer Lewis Swift, who did most of his observing from rural New York before relocating to southern California in the early 1890s. Swift discovered his first comet, a 7th-magnitude object, on July …


In most scientific disciplines, if we want to examine an object closely and in-depth, we can collect some kind of sample specimen of that object, take it to our laboratories, and perform any number of direct analysis examinations of that specimen. For the most part, in astronomy we can’t do that; we are usually restricted …


Humanity marked 20 years of continuous habitation of the orbiting International Space Station on November 2, 2020. We’re celebrating the milestone by posting a variety of articles about the ISS during this historic year. In our latest Word Search puzzle, we’ve hidden 39 words related to the ISS. The words may be placed horizontal, vertical, …


Will we someday colonize space? Will our children visit other planets? To achieve goals like these, we’ll need to crack one crucial challenge: how to feed ourselves for long periods away from Earth. A trip to Mars would take months, and exploring the depths of the galaxy would take even longer. Provision of nutritious food …


NOVEMBER 22, 2020: The Apollo-type asteroid (7753) 1988 XB will pass 0.066 AU from Earth. The best visibility will be next week when it travels west-northwestward through Leo, Cancer, and Gemini and will be 15th magnitude. Close approaches by near-Earth asteroids are the subject of this week’s “Special Topics” presentation.   NOVEMBER 25, 2005: JAXA’s Hayabusa …


Perihelion: 2013 November 28.78, q = 0.012 AU  I mentioned in the “Special Topics” presentation on “Great Comets” that such objects come by about once a decade, on average. Comet NEOWISE C/2020 F3, which appeared back in July, could perhaps be considered a borderline “Great” comet, but prior to that, the last “Great Comet” for those of …