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The Night Sky The Solar System

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Astro News

Stargazing at Saturn
The brilliant supergiant star, Rigel, emerges from behind the haze of Saturn's upper atmosphere in this Cassini view. Rigel in is one of the 10 brightest stars in Earth's sky and forms the left foot (sometimes referred to as the left knee) of the familiar constellation Orion.
   FULL STORY
Titan on the side
Saturn's largest moon, Titan, peaks out from under the planet's rings of ice. This view from the Cassini spacecraft looks toward Titan from slightly beneath the ringplane. The dark Encke gap is visible here, as is the narrow F ring.
   FULL STORY
Scientists predict how to detect a new dimension
Scientists at Duke and Rutgers universities have developed a mathematical framework they say will enable astronomers to test a new five-dimensional theory of gravity that competes with Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.
   FULL STORY
SOHO will lead a fleet of solar observatories
New funding, to extend the mission of the venerable solar watchdog SOHO, will ensure it plays a leading part in the fleet of solar spacecraft scheduled to be launched over the next few years.
   FULL STORY
Hubble captures a 'five-star' rated gravitational lens
The Hubble Space Telescope has captured the first-ever picture of a distant quasar lensed into five images. In addition, the image holds a treasure of lensed galaxies and even a supernova.
   FULL STORY
A new ruler available to measure the universe
A team of astronomers has published the largest three-dimensional map of the universe ever constructed, a wedge-shaped slice of the cosmos that spans a tenth of the northern sky, encompasses 600,000 uniquely luminous red galaxies, and extends 5.6 billion light-years deep into space, equivalent to 40 percent of the way back in time to the Big Bang.
   FULL STORY
From dark to bright and red to white on Iapetus
Cassini's landmark investigation of Saturn's yin-yang moon Iapetus, with its bright and dark hemispheres, continues to provide insights into the nature of this intriguing body.
   FULL STORY
Innovative technique used to discover planet
An international team of professional and amateur astronomers, using simple off-the-shelf equipment to trawl the skies for planets outside our solar system, has hauled in its first "catch."
   FULL STORY
Unexpected detail in first Venus south pole images
The European Space Agency's Venus Express has returned the first-ever images of the hothouse planet's south pole, showing surprisingly clear structures and unexpected detail. The images were taken during the spacecraft's initial capture orbit after successful arrival last week.
   FULL STORY
Crescent Titan with rings
This poetic scene shows the giant, smog-enshrouded moon Titan behind Saturn's nearly edge-on rings. Much smaller Epimetheus (72 miles across) is just visible to the left of Titan (3,200 miles across).
   FULL STORY
Mars cameras debut as NASA craft adjusts orbit
Researchers have released the first Mars images from two of the three science cameras on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The test images were taken from nearly 10 times as far from the planet as the spacecraft will be once it finishes reshaping its orbit.
   FULL STORY
Mars rovers head for new sites after studying layers
NASA's Mars rover Spirit has reached a safe site for the Martian winter, while its twin, Opportunity, is making fast progress toward a destination of its own. The two rovers recently set out on important -- but very different -- drives after earlier weeks inspecting sites with layers of Mars history.
   FULL STORY
Hubble corrects size of solar system's tenth planet
NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has resolved the "tenth planet," nicknamed "Xena" for the first time, and has found that it is only just a little larger than Pluto. Previous ground-based observations suggested that Xena was about 30 percent greater in diameter than Pluto.
   FULL STORY
A Venusian arrival:
Probe safely enters orbit
Venus received a visitor from its sister planet Tuesday morning when a European space probe completed a five-month interplanetary cruise and swooped into orbit to begin the first comprehensive scientific survey of its sultry atmosphere.
   FULL STORY
   LAUNCH COVERAGE
NASA to send impactor into moon in search of water
NASA has unveiled the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, that will launch piggyback with the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft in October 2008. LCROSS will use the launch vehicle's spent upper stage to crash into the moon's south pole in an explosive search for water.
   FULL STORY
Survey finds galaxy cluster building-block process
A study of the Universe's most massive galaxy clusters has shown that mergers play a vital role in their evolution. Astronomers used a combination of data from telescopes located in Hawaii and Chile and the Hubble Space Telescope to study populations of stars in the Universe's most massive galaxy clusters over a range of epochs - the earliest being half the age of the Universe.
   FULL STORY
Search for dark galaxies
First results from the Arecibo Galaxy Environment Survey (AGES) suggest the discovery of a new dark galaxy. The AGES survey, which started in January, is the most sensitive, large-scale survey of neutral hydrogen to date. Neutral hydrogen is a key tool in the search for dark galaxies as it can be detected even when there are no stars or other radiation sources to "shine a light" on matter.
   FULL STORY
Exploding star within a star
Amateur astronomers reported in February that a faint star in the constellation of Ophiuchus had suddenly become clearly visible in the night sky without the aid of a telescope. Records show that this so-called recurrent nova, has previously reached this level of brightness five times in the last 108 years. The latest explosion has been observed in unprecedented detail by an armada of space and ground-based telescopes.
   FULL STORY
Searching through rubble of supernova remnants
A study of supernova remnants - material blown out into space during death throes of giant stars - has shown that a bubble of gas enveloping our Solar System is being shoved backwards by the debris of another, more recent, supernova.
   FULL STORY
Two supermassive black holes spirling to collision
A pair of supermassive black holes in the distant universe are intertwined and spiraling toward a merger that will create a single super-supermassive black hole capable of swallowing billions of stars, according to a new study by astronomers.
   FULL STORY
Uranus' newly found moon embedded in a blue ring
The outermost ring of Uranus, discovered just last year, is bright blue, making it only the second known blue ring in the solar system, according to a report this week in the journal Science. Perhaps not coincidentally, both blue rings are associated with small moons.
   FULL STORY
NASA restarts once-dead Dawn asteroid mission
Less than a month after falling victim to budget and technical concerns, the Dawn asteroid explorer was brought back from the grave Monday by a decision to restore funding to the mission and launch the probe by next summer.
   FULL STORY
   NASA STATEMENT
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From Europa to lab: New oxygen recipe on icy moons
Some may be surprised to learn that bleach-blondes and the enabler of life elsewhere in our solar system have something in common. It is, in fact, hydrogen peroxide.
   FULL STORY
Cannibal stars like their food hot, XMM-Newton finds
The European Space Agency's XMM-Newton observatory has seen vast clouds of superheated gas, whirling around miniature stars and escaping from being devoured by the stars' enormous gravitational fields - giving a new insight into the eating habits of the galaxy's "cannibal" stars.
   FULL STORY
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter takes test images
The first test images of Mars from NASA's newest spacecraft provide a tantalizing preview of what the orbiter will reveal when its main science mission begins next fall.
   FULL STORY
New class of comets may be source of Earth's water
Three icy comets orbiting among the rocky asteroids in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter may hold clues to the origin of Earth's oceans. The newly discovered group of comets, dubbed main-belt comets, has asteroid-like orbits and, unlike other comets, appears to have formed in the warm inner solar system inside the orbit of Jupiter rather than in the cold outer solar system beyond Neptune.
   FULL STORY
Chandra finds evidence for quasar ignition
New data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may provide clues to how quasars "turn on." Since the discovery of quasars over 40 years ago, astronomers have been trying to understand the conditions surrounding the birth of these immensely powerful objects.
   FULL STORY
Satellite reveals universe's first trillionth second
Scientists peering back to the oldest light in the universe have new evidence for what happened within its first trillionth of a second, when the universe suddenly grew from submicroscopic to astronomical size in far less than a wink of the eye.
   FULL STORY
Galaxy on fire! Spitzer reveals stellar smoke
Where there's smoke, there's fire -- even in outer space. A new infrared image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope shows a burning hot galaxy whose fiery stars appear to be blowing out giant billows of smoky dust. The galaxy, called Messier 82, or the "Cigar galaxy," was previously known to host a hotbed of young, massive stars. Spitzer reveals, for the first time, the "smoke" surrounding those stellar fires.
   FULL STORY
Weird Saturn ring spokes may return in July
Unusual spokes up to 6,000 miles long and 1,500 miles in width that appear fleetingly on the rings of Saturn only to disappear for years at a time may become visible again by July, according to a new study spearheaded by the University of Colorado at Boulder.
   FULL STORY
Double helix nebula found in center of the Milky Way
Astronomers report an unprecedented elongated double helix nebula near the center of our Milky Way galaxy, using observations from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The part of the nebula the astronomers observed stretches 80 light years in length.
   FULL STORY
New planet discovered:
An icy super-Earth

Astronomers have discovered a "super-Earth" orbiting in the cold outer regions of a distant solar system about 9,000 light-years away. The planet weighs 13 times as much as Earth, and at -330 degrees Fahrenheit, it's one of the coldest planets ever discovered outside our solar system.
   FULL STORY
Comet from the cold has material from hottest places
Scientists analyzing recent samples of comet dust have discovered minerals that formed near the sun or other stars. That means materials from the innermost part of the solar system could have traveled to the outer reaches, where comets formed.
   FULL STORY
Hubble supports a common birth of Pluto's moons
Using new Hubble Space Telescope observations, a research team has found that Pluto's three moons are essentially the same color - boosting the theory that the Pluto system formed in a single, giant collision.
   FULL STORY
Spacecraft safely enters orbit around Mars
After a seven-month voyage from Earth, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter successfully fired its main engines for 27 minutes Friday, slowing the craft by some 2,200 mph and putting it into a near-perfect elliptical orbit around the Red Planet.
   FULL STORY
   MISSION STATUS CENTER - live updates!
   PREVIEW STORY
   TIMELINE: ORBIT INSERTION PLAN
   VIDEO: MRO FULL COVERAGE
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Cassini finds evidence for water on Enceladus
Pockets of liquid water may exist near the surface of Saturn's icy moon Enceladus, the apparent source of huge Yellowstone-type geysers seen erupting from the moon's south polar region by NASA's Cassini spacecraft, scientists reported Thursday. If so, Enceladus would join a very short list of bodies in the solar system with environments that could, in theory at least, support life.
   FULL STORY
   NASA NEWS RELEASE
Cocoons found around supergiant stars
A team of French and North American astronomers has discovered envelopes around three Cepheids, including the Pole star. This is the first time that matter is found surrounding members of this important class of rare and very luminous stars whose luminosity varies in a very regular way. Cepheids play a crucial role in cosmology, being one of the first "steps" on the cosmic distance ladder.
   FULL STORY
New Hubble images offer best view of Pluto, moons
Anxiously awaited follow-up observations with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope have confirmed the presence of two new moons around the distant planet Pluto. The moons were first discovered by Hubble in May 2005, but the science team probed even deeper into the Pluto system last week to look for additional satellites and to characterize the orbits of the moons.
   FULL STORY
Milky Way map reveals millions of unseen objects
Nearly 400 years after Galileo determined the wispy Milky Way actually comprises myriad individual stars, scientists using NASA's Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer have done the same for the "X-ray Milky Way."
   FULL STORY
Hot alien world is the closest directly detected
A NASA-led team of astronomers have used NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to detect a strong flow of heat radiation from a toasty planet orbiting a nearby star. The findings allowed the team to "take the temperature" of the planet.
   FULL STORY
Japanese infrared space observatory goes into orbit
A new infrared telescope was put in orbit by Japan Feb. 21 to begin an 18-month mission to conduct a comprehensive all-sky survey that should detect light from up to ten million objects scattered throughout the Universe.
   FULL STORY
Mars orbiter studies possible aurorae
The European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft has seen more evidence that aurorae occur over the night side of Mars, especially over areas of the surface where variations in the magnetic properties of the crust have been detected.
   FULL STORY
Stardust samples under study in laboratory
Scientists at the University of Chicago are among the first ever to analyze cometary dust delivered to Earth via spacecraft. Scientists routinely examine extraterrestrial material that has fallen to Earth as meteorites, but never before NASA's Stardust mission have they had access to verified samples of a comet.
   FULL STORY
Amateurs spot 10th planet
A group of amateur astronomers has used a telescope at McDonald Observatory to make the first "through-the-Eyepiece" sighting of the tenth planet, an object orbiting the Sun in the Kuiper Belt, far beyond Pluto.
   FULL STORY
Cosmic ray mystery solved
When Voyager 1 finally crossed the "termination shock" at the edge of interstellar space in December 2004, space physicists anticipated the long-sought discovery of the source of anomalous cosmic rays. These cosmic rays, among the most energetic particle radiation in the solar system, are thought to be produced at the termination shock - the boundary at the edge of the solar system where the million-mile-per-hour solar wind abruptly slows. A mystery unfolded instead when Voyager data showed 20 years of predictions to be wrong.
   FULL STORY
Stellar candidates for habitable worlds
In the search for life on other worlds, scientists can listen for radio transmissions from stellar neighborhoods where intelligent civilizations might lurk or they can try to actually spot planets like our own in habitable zones around nearby stars. Either approach is tricky and relies on choosing the right targets for scrutiny out of the many thousands of nearby stars in our galactic neighborhood.
   FULL STORY
Earlier News

How to steal a million stars?
Based on observations with European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, a team of Italian astronomers reports that the stellar cluster Messier 12 must have lost to our Milky Way galaxy close to one million low-mass stars.
   FULL STORY
Peeking behind the veil of Venus to study its weather
The planet Venus is best known for the thick layers of clouds that veil its surface from view by telescopes on Earth. But the veil has holes, and a New Mexico State University scientist plans on using a solar telescope to peer through them to study the weather on Venus.
   FULL STORY
Probe sets sail on voyage to the outer solar system
A supercharged Atlas 5 rocket carrying NASA's Pluto-bound New Horizons probe roared to life and vaulted away from Earth Jan. 19 on a three-billion-mile, nine-year voyage to the frigid edge of the solar system.
   FULL STORY
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The Planets
From tiny Mercury to distant Neptune and Pluto, The Planets profiles each of the Solar System's members in depth, featuring the latest imagery from space missions. The tallest mountains, the deepest canyons, the strongest winds, raging atmospheric storms, terrain studded with craters and vast worlds of ice are just some of the sights you'll see on this 100-page tour of the planets.
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Hubble Reborn
Hubble Reborn takes the reader on a journey through the Universe with spectacular full-colour pictures of galaxies, nebulae, planets and stars as seen through Hubble's eyes, along the way telling the dramatic story of the space telescope, including interviews with key scientists and astronauts.
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3D Universe
Witness the most awesome sights of the Universe as they were meant to be seen in this 100-page extravaganza of planets, galaxies and star-scapes, all in 3D!
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