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Solar System

Comet West (C/1975 V1) as seen on March 9, 1976 (Photo: NASA)

The first comet discovered this year, Comet C/2013 A1, is currently projected to pass within about 23,000 miles (37,000 km) of the surface of Mars late in 2014. While this event in itself promises spectacular views for astronomers, the uncertainty of the comet's orbit includes a significant chance of an impact on Mars. If this happens, the impact would be hundreds of times more powerful than the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs on Earth.  Read More

Vapor trail of the Chelyabinsk meteor (Photo: Nikita Plekhanov/Wikipedia)

The European Space Agency (ESA) is assessing information about the Chelyabinsk meteor that exploded last week over Russia in the hope of improving the space agency’s asteroid-hunting program. Calculations by Peter Brown at Canada's University of Western Ontario based on the analysis of extremely low-frequency sound waves detected by a global network, was combined with videos, satellite images and eyewitness accounts to allow ESA to construct a more complete and accurate account of the event.  Read More

A recent analysis of the data gathered from the Kepler telescope has revealed that Earth-s...

The latest analysis of data coming from NASA's Kepler telescope has revealed that nearly all the Sun-like stars in our galaxy appear to have planets orbiting them, and that at least 17 percent of them – about one in six – are hosting a planet the size of our own in close orbit. Because the Milky Way is estimated to contain some 100 billion stars, this means that our galaxy alone could have at least 17 billion Earth-sized planets, some of which may harbor the conditions for life.  Read More

An artist's conception of the HD142527 system, with gas streamers being pulled towards the...

Observations made with the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA) in northern Chile, which is scheduled for completion this year, have solved a longstanding mystery in solar system formation. They showed how protoplanets forming around a young star can use their own gravitational pull to slingshot matter in the direction of their host star, fueling its growth.  Read More

An artist's conception of the Chang'E lunar orbiter come asteroid probe

China has now joined the very select group of countries to have succeeded in carrying out an interplanetary probe mission. According to reports from China's official news agency Xinhua, the Chang'E 2 probe passed a mere 3.2 km (2 miles) from the near-Earth asteroid Toutatis at 8:30:09 GMT on December 13, making it the closest asteroid flyby to date.  Read More

Artist's conception of a protostar pulling interstellar gas onto a rotating protoplanetary...

The Sun is a bit over 4.5 billion years old, leading many to think of all stars as billions of years in age. Astronomers have now demonstrated that isn't always the case. Using high-resolution millimeter and submillimeter imaging telescope arrays, John Tobin of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) and his collaborators have now discovered an infant star whose age is measured in thousands, rather than billions, of years. While at present the protostar has only about a fifth of the Sun's mass, projections point to the eventual formation of a stellar system broadly similar to our Sun and its planets.  Read More

NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft exploring a new region in our solar system called the 'magneti...

Voyager 1 has reached yet another new frontier on its historic journey towards the edge of our solar system. NASA scientists believe this “magnetic highway” represents the final region the spacecraft must cross before becoming the first man-made object to reach interstellar space, an event they are guessing could be as close as a couple of months away.  Read More

An artist's impression of the surface of Makemake (Image: ESO/L. Calçada/Nick Risinger (sk...

In April 2011, Makemake – one of five dwarf planets in our Solar System – passed between Earth and a distant star. Using seven telescopes, an international team of astronomers observed the event, known as stellar occultation, and through careful analysis, have determined the planet's size, density, and even the nature of its atmosphere.  Read More

Photo of Jupiter taken September 10, 2012 by George Hall of a fireball caused by the impac...

Jupiter is a major player in protecting the Earth from impact events, and has been for billions of years. Between comets and asteroids impacting on Jupiter and being flung into the Sun or out of the Solar System entirely, Jupiter's enormous gravitational field has removed the greater proportion of debris left-over from the formation of the Solar System. Jupiter has again been caught in the act of attracting and eating dangerous space rocks—this time in simultaneous observations by two amateur astronomers.  Read More

The 'Solbot' optimizes the orientation of the solar panel in relation to the sun

Although solar trackers can significantly increase the energy output of solar cells by keeping them optimally aligned to the sun, installing them on all the panels at an installation can add significant expense and provides multiple points of failure. A new tracking system from QBotix avoids these problems by getting a robot to do the rounds of the solar installation throughout the day and adjust the panels at 40-minute intervals to ensure they are optimally facing the sun.  Read More

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