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What is the Newest Planet?

With astronomers discovering new planets and other celestial objects all the time, you may be wondering what the newest planet to be discovered is. Well, that depends on your frame of reference. If we are talking about our Solar System, then the answer used to be Pluto, which was discovered by the American astronomer Clyde William Tombaugh in 1930.

Unfortunately, Pluto lost its status as a planet in 2006 when it was reclassified as a dwarf planet. Since then, another contender has emerged for the title of “newest planet in the Solar System” – a celestial body that goes by the name of Eris – while beyond our Solar System, thousands of new planets are being discovered.

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The ISS Progress M-28 (Progress 60) cargo craft is seen just a few minutes away from successful docking to the International Space Station. Credit: Roscosmos

The ISS Progress M-28M (Progress 60) cargo craft is seen just a few minutes away from successful docking to the International Space Station on July 5, 2015. Credit: Roscosmos

Over three tons of much needed supplies and equipment finally reached the crew living aboard the International Space Station (ISS), when an unmanned and highly anticipated Russian Progress cargo ship successfully docked at the orbiting outpost early this morning, Sunday July 5, at 3:11 a.m. EDT (10:11 MSK, Moscow local time)- to all the partners relief.

This follows two straight international resupply launch failures that significantly crimped the stations stockpiles and abruptly impacted upcoming crew rotations and [click to continue…]

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What is the Roden Crater?

Satellite view of Roden Crater, outside Flagstaff, Arizona. Credit: NASA

Satellite view of Roden Crater, outside Flagstaff, Arizona. Credit: Public Domain

Imagine a volcano powerful enough to leave a massive crater in the Earth that could be seen from space. Now imagine that to a satellite observing it from above, the crater looked very much like an eyeball. And imagine that this same Wplace was bought by an internationally-renowned artist for the sake of turning it into the largest public art project in history.

This describes the Roden Crater perfectly, the remains of an extinct volcano located near Flagstaff, Arizona, on the edge of the Painted Desert that has since become an art project to James Turell – a man with some pretty unique artistic sensibilities!

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NASA briefly lost touch with the New Horizons spacecraft yesterday. Communications have been reestablished but science data will be delayed. Credit: NASA

NASA briefly lost touch with the New Horizons spacecraft yesterday. Communications have been reestablished but science data gathering is temporarily on hold. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SRI

For a nail-biting hour and 20 minutes, NASA lost contact yesterday afternoon July 4 with the New Horizons spacecraft just 9 days before its encounter with Pluto. Communication has since been reestablished and the spacecraft is healthy.

(UPDATE July 6: Great news! The mission will return to normal science operations July 7 – more details below.)  [click to continue…]

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Who Was Nicolaus Copernicus?

Astronomer Copernicus, or Conversations with God, by Matejko. Credit: frombork.art.pl/pl/

Astronomer Copernicus, or Conversations with God, by Matejko. Credit: frombork.art.pl

When it comes to understanding our place in the universe, few scientists have had more of an impact than Nicolaus Copernicus. The creator of the Copernican Model of the universe (aka. heliocentrism), his discovery that the Earth and other planets revolved the Sun triggered an intellectual revolution that would have far-reaching consequences.

In addition to playing a major part in the Scientific Revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries, his ideas changed the way people looked at the heavens, the planets, and would have a profound influence over men like Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, Sir Isaac Newton and many others. In short, the “Copernican Revolution” helped to usher in the era of modern science.

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An iconic section of the fuselage recovered from space shuttle Challenger with the American flag (left) and the flight deck windows recovered from space shuttle Columbia (right) are part of a new, permanent memorial, “Forever Remembered,” that opened on June 27, 2015 in the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida featuring shuttle hardware and personal crew items never before on display for viewing by the public. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

An iconic section of the fuselage recovered from space shuttle Challenger with the American flag (left) and the flight deck windows recovered from space shuttle Columbia (right) are part of a new, permanent memorial, “Forever Remembered,” that opened on June 27, 2015 in the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida – featuring shuttle hardware and personal crew items never before on display for viewing by the public. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Story/photos updated

NASA’s two lost Shuttle crews from the searing Challenger and Columbia accidents are now memorialized in the newly opened, permanent and highly emotional “Forever Remembered” tribute display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.

The “Forever Remembered” memorial tribute was officially opened by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, both veteran shuttle astronauts, at a very special and moving small private NASA ceremony attended by families of the 14 fallen crew members and invited members of the media including Universe Today on June 27, 2015. [click to continue…]

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Red-faced Pluto Full of Surprises

New Horizons scientists combined the latest black and white map of Pluto’s surface features (left) with a map of the planet’s colors (right) to produce a detailed color portrait of the planet’s northern hemisphere (center). Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

New Horizons scientists combined the latest black and white map of Pluto’s surface features (left) with a map of the planet’s colors (right) to produce a detailed color portrait of the planet’s northern hemisphere (center). The color is what you’d see if you were riding along with New Horizons. “Ralph” is a visible/infrared imager.
Credits: NASA/JHUAPL/SWRI

Hey, Mars, you’ve got company. Looks like there’s a second “red planet” in the Solar System — Pluto. Color images returned from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, now just 10 days from its encounter with the dwarf planet, show a distinctly ruddy surface with patchy markings that strongly resemble Mars’ appearance in a small telescope. [click to continue…]

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Blastoff of the Russian Progress 60 resupply ship to the ISS from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 3, 2015. Credit: Roscosmos

Blastoff of the Russian Progress 60 resupply ship to the ISS from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on July 3, 2015. Credit: Roscosmos
Story updated

A sigh of relief was heard worldwide with today’s (July 3) successful launch to orbit of the unmanned Progress 60 cargo freighter atop a Soyuz-U booster from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, signifying the restoration of Russia’s critical cargo lifeline to the International Space Station (ISS), some two months after the devastating launch failure of the prior Progress 59 spaceship on April 28. [click to continue…]

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River of Fire Smoke Darkens Sun and Moon

The waning gibbous moon was still the color of fire even at midnight last night due to heavy smoke from Canadian forest fires. Credit: Bob King

The waning gibbous Moon was still the color of fire even at midnight last night due to heavy smoke from Canadian forest fires. Photo taken around midnight when the Moon stood 20° high. Credit: Bob King

My eyes are burning. The morning Sun, already 40° high, glares a lemony-orange. It’s meteorologically clear, but the sky looks like paste. What’s going on here?

Forest fires! Many in the Midwest, northern mountain states and Canadian provinces have been living under a dome of high altitude smoke the past few days reflected in the ruddy midday Sun and bloody midnight Moon. [click to continue…]

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Uranus’ Moon of Titania

Titania

Voyager 2 image of Titania, Uranus’ largest moon. Credit: NASA

Like all of the Solar Systems’ gas giants, Uranus has an extensive system of moons. In fact, astronomers can now account for 27 moons in orbit around Uranus. Of these, none are greater in size, mass, or surface area than Titania. One of the first moon’s to be discovered around Uranus, this heavily cratered and scarred moon was appropriately named after the fictional Queen of the Fairies.

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