space

The astronomer whose work helped kick Pluto out of the pantheon of planets says he has good reason to believe there's an undiscovered planet bigger than Earth lurking in the distant reaches of our solar system.

A rare sight will greet early risers starting Wednesday morning. About 45 minutes before sunrise, five planets – Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter – will all be visible in the sky.

The best time to get planetary sightseeing in will be at the end of the week. By then, the five aforementioned planets will form an arch-shaped line in the sky that will be fairly easy to follow. The moon will pop up in the intergalactic line-up shortly thereafter.

A mind-boggling stellar explosion is baffling astronomers, who say this cosmic beast is so immensely powerful that no one's sure exactly what made it go boom.

The recently discovered inferno is about 200 times more powerful than a typical exploding star, or supernova, and 570 billion times brighter than our sun. It was first spotted in June by the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae, nicknamed the "Assassin" project, so it's called ASASSN-15lh.

It's the solstice again, which is an astronomer's favorite time of year. That's because it's one of the few occasions where we have anything semi-practical to say to anyone.

"Hey, Adam, you're an astronomer. What's this whole solstice thing about?"

Well, I'm glad you asked.

It is without a doubt a spectacular moment for the space industry: Just months after the setback of a launch explosion, a SpaceX rocket managed to launch satellites into space, then tumble back to Earth, use rockets to stabilize itself and stick the landing on a small pad in Florida.

In a finding that suggests "considerable water activity" on Mars, NASA says its Curiosity rover has found very high concentrations of silica on the red planet. The agency says it also found "a mineral named tridymite, rare on Earth and never seen before on Mars."

The best photos from the New Horizons spacecraft that buzzed Pluto earlier this year are now making their way back to Earth, providing resolutions of less than 100 yards per pixel.

There's a building in Mountain View, Calif., where energy-saving technologies of the future are being tried on for size.

Step inside, and the first thing you notice is the building is dead quiet: no noisy air whooshing through louvers.

That's because the building uses passive cooling instead of traditional air conditioning. Cool ground water passes through a system of small tubes running below the ceiling.

Astronomers have spotted what they believe to be the most distant object ever seen in our solar system.

The dwarf planet, known for now simply as V774104, is more than 100 times farther from the sun than we are. Astronomers aren't sure what it's doing out there, but they're hoping follow-up studies of its orbit will teach them more.

Few images can put life's trivialities into perspective quite like the sight of our planet in the interminable blackness of space.

And at the very least, it's a cool view.

On Monday, NASA announced that this view will be available every day on a new website dedicated to publishing images from a satellite camera 1 million miles away from Earth.

Carter Roberts / NASA

A star in the direction of the constellations Cygnus and Lyra has some astronomers scratching their heads. It's pretty run-of-the mill by stellar standards, but what appears to be passing in front of the star is a bit of a mystery.

Mars is cold and dry, but billions of years ago, it was cold and wet. That's according to new evidence from NASA's Curiosity rover, which is currently exploring a large crater on Mars.

Wikimedia Commons

As NASA contemplates more voyages exploring our inner solar system, it’s tapping the talents of some scientists here in Connecticut. One scientist hopes to send a probe to Venus.

Scientists have caught Mars crying salty tears.

Photos from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show dark streaks flowing down Martian slopes. The streaks appear in sunny spots or when the weather is warm, and they fade when the temperature drops.

Maybe you've become inured to all the superlatives that get attached to sky-watching events. But the one on Sunday really is worth a look — it's the first total eclipse that's also a supermoon and a blood moon in more than three decades.

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center / Creative Commons

In her latest book, author and scholar Marcia Bartusiak shows how the black hole helped bring Einstein's general theory of relativity back into the spotlight.

Stephen Hawking, who once stunned the scientific community by saying that black holes emit radiation, expounded on another groundbreaking theory on Tuesday.

Set your alarm clocks. The Perseid meteor shower, the annual celestial lightshow that Space.com com calls the most widely observed and dependable meteor display of the year, will peak tonight and early tomorrow morning.

Sherman Geronimo-Tan / Creative Commons

Is scientific progress suffering from a lack of creativity?

This hour, we talk to the author of The Creativity Crisis: Reinventing Science to Unleash Possibility to find out how increasingly cautious funding decisions are impacting scientific innovation and discovery. 

This hour, we'll talk about Ben Rothenberg's Serena-driven body image piece, and the stir it caused. Mark Leibovitch's peice on

NASA-JHUAPL-SwRI

On Tuesday night, astronomers got an encouraging signal from New Horizons -- after 21 hours of radio silence, the NASA probe reported it had safely made its way past Pluto. Now, scientists in Connecticut say the real work begins. 

Sherman Geronimo-Tan / Creative Commons

Is scientific progress suffering from a lack of creativity?

This hour, we talk to the author of The Creativity Crisis: Reinventing Science to Unleash Possibility to find out how increasingly cautious funding decisions are impacting scientific innovation and discovery. 

NASA, ESA, P. Oesch and I. Momcheva (Yale University), and the 3D-HST and HUDF09/XDF teams

The most distant galaxy ever measured is 13.1 billion light years away, according to a new study out of Yale University. 

After 4,104 orbits of Mercury and billions of miles of space travel, NASA's Messenger orbiter ended its mission with a quiet bang on Thursday. Messenger crashed into the planet it has been orbiting for four years.

NASA says the orbiter began the process of lithobraking at 3:26 p.m. ET — meaning that Messenger essentially scraped to a stop after hitting the planet's surface traveling at thousands of miles an hour. The Oxford English Dictionary reminds us that litho is the combining form for the Greek word for "stone."

NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), A. Nota (ESA/STScI), and the Westerlund 2 Science Team

The Hubble Space telescope shot into orbit 25 years ago on Friday. I spoke with a Connecticut engineer who worked on the project, which forever changed humanity's view of its place in the cosmos. 

Mike Massimino is one of the last people to ever see the Hubble Space Telescope in person.

From inside his orbiting space shuttle, the telescope first appeared on the horizon as a star, says Massimino, who was an astronaut on the final mission to service the space telescope in 2009.

In space, all they have is instant.

"For an instant coffee, it's an excellent instant coffee," says Vickie Kloeris, who manages the space station's food supply for NASA. Astronauts are allotted up to three freeze-dried cups (pouches, actually) a day, and Kloeris says it's "extremely popular."

But, she adds, "Can it compete with brewed espresso? No."

Scientists in California are hoping to use your smart phone to solve a cosmic mystery. They're developing an app to turn your phone into a cosmic ray detector. If enough people install the app, the scientists think they'll be able to figure out once and for all what's producing the very energetic cosmic rays that occasionally hit the Earth.

Updated at 4 p.m. ET

A Russian rocket has carried a Russian cosmonaut and an American astronaut to the International Space Station, where they will live for a full year, twice as long as people usually stay.

No American has remained in space longer than 215 days. Only a few people have ever gone on space trips lasting a year or more — the longest was 437 days — and they're all Russian cosmonauts. The last year-plus stay in space occurred nearly two decades ago.

Updated at 12:50 p.m. ET

SpaceX has put all of its images in the public domain — as the result of a tweet.

CEO Elon Musk tweeted Saturday:

Among the responses was this one:

Musk's reply:

SpaceX posted new images on its website and on Flickr. The decision puts SpaceX in the company of NASA, which also has its images in the public domain.

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