Earth-like?? An Insight into Kepler 454b

Artist’s concept of two small planets orbiting their host star. Planets such as these tend to fall into two categories: rocky like Earth, or gaseous like Neptune. [NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech] Small exoplanets tend to fall into two categories: the smallest ones are predominantly rocky, like Earth, and the larger ones have a lower-density, more gaseous composition, similarRead More

Solar System: Ninth Planet Discovered..?

Artist’s illustration of a possible ninth planet in our solar system. A recent study has revealed that the unexpected behavior of some Kuiper belt objects could be explained by the presence of a distant, planet-sized object yet undetected in our solar system. [Caltech/Robert Hurt] The recent discovery that the orbits of some Kuiper belt objectsRead More

The Smith Cloud in Milky Way

The massive Smith Cloud falling toward our galaxy’s disk is likely from the Milky Way, not a visitor: This composite of visible and false-color radio images shows the size and location of the Smith Cloud on the sky. The cloud (yellow-red-purple object) appears in radio wavelengths as observed by the Green Bank Telescope. The visible-lightRead More

Witness Spring Time in Titan

Stunning natural-color Cassini image of Titan in the foreground of Saturn and its rings. The location of the shadow from Saturn’s rings reveal the season: the northern hemispheres of Saturn and Titan are both in mid-spring, in this image taken in May 2012. [NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute] Have you ever wondered what springtime is like onRead More

Comets to look forward to in 2016

A look ahead to see what new and returning comets will spice up the new year: Four comets equaled or exceeded 6th magnitude — the naked-eye limit — in 2015: MASTER (C/2015 G2), at magnitude +6; Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2), magnitude +5; PanSTARRS (C/2014 Q1), magnitude +5; and Catalina (C/2013 US10), magnitude +6. A small confession. IRead More

Winter hurricane in North Atlantic

Hurricanes need warm water to form, and that’s why the North Atlantic’s hurricane season begins on June 1 each year and runs through late November. But on January 14, 2016, a tropical depression in the eastern Atlantic evolved into a hurricane, which was given the first name on 2016’s list of hurricane names: Alex. ItRead More

Can you tell me the full moon names?

Some almanacs like to give each month a special full moon name. Other almanacs like to reference full moons relative to seasonal markers, as defined by equinoxes and solstices. Is one way better than the other? No. Both have their roots in folklore. Of course, both the monthly names and the seasonal names necessarily favorRead More