Written by Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has recorded the never-before-seen break-up of an asteroid into as many as 10 smaller pieces. Fragile comets, comprised of ice and dust, have been seen falling apart as they approach the sun, but nothing like this has ever before been observed in the asteroid belt.
“This is a rock, and seeing it fall apart before our eyes is pretty amazing,” said David Jewitt of the University of California at Los Angeles, who led the astronomical forensics investigation.
Written by DC Agle
Pasadena, CA – NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) spacecraft has spotted a never-before-seen comet — its first such discovery since coming out of hibernation late last year.
“We are so pleased to have discovered this frozen visitor from the outermost reaches of our solar system,” said Amy Mainzer, the mission’s principal investigator from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. “This comet is a weirdo – it is in a retrograde orbit, meaning that it orbits the sun in the opposite sense from Earth and the other planets.”
Written by Bill Steigerwald
Greenbelt, MD – While the origin of life remains mysterious, scientists are finding more and more evidence that material created in space and delivered to Earth by comet and meteor impacts could have given a boost to the start of life.
Some meteorites supply molecules that can be used as building blocks to make certain kinds of larger molecules that are critical for life.
Researchers have analyzed carbon-rich meteorites (carbonaceous chondrites) and found amino acids, which are used to make proteins.
Written by Guy Webster
Pasadena, CA – This spring, NASA will be paying cautious attention to a comet that could put on a barnstorming show at Mars on October 19th, 2014.
On that date, comet 2013 A1 Siding Spring will buzz Mars about 10 times closer than any identified comet has ever flown past Earth.
Spacecraft at Mars might get a good look at the nucleus of comet Siding Spring as it heads toward the closest approach, roughly 86,000 miles (138,000 kilometers) from the planet, give or take a few percent.
Written by DC Agle/Jia-Rui Cook
Pasadena, CA – Three NASA science instruments are being prepared for check-out operations aboard the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft, which is set to become the first to orbit a comet and land a probe on its nucleus in November.
Rosetta was reactivated January 20th after a record 957 days in hibernation. U.S. mission managers are scheduled to activate their instruments on the spacecraft in early March and begin science operations with them in August. The instruments are an ultraviolet imaging spectrograph, a microwave thermometer and a plasma analyzer.
Written by Jia-Rui C. Cook
Pasadena, CA – A new analysis of data from NASA’s Galileo mission has revealed clay-type minerals at the surface of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa that appear to have been delivered by a spectacular collision with an asteroid or comet.
This is the first time such minerals have been detected on Europa’s surface. The types of space rocks that deliver such minerals typically also often carry organic materials.
Written by Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – As arctic air and record cold sweeps across the USA, amateur astronomers are looking at their calendars with a degree of trepidation. A date is circled: December 14th. And below it says: “Wake up at 4:00am for the Geminid meteor shower.”
“It’s going to be cold,” says Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. “But that is the best time to see the 2013 Geminid meteor shower.”
Huntsville, AL – The annual Geminid meteor shower will peak on the night of December 13th-14th, 2013. NASA astronomer Bill Cooke, along with Danielle Moser and Rhiannon Blaauw from his team of experts, will be on hand to answer questions via a live web chat on December 13th from 10:00pm until 2:00am CST.
A live Ustream feed of the skies over NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center will also be embedded on this page on the night of the chat.
Written by Dr. Tony Phillips
Washington, D.C. – Astronomers have long known that some comets like it hot. Several of the greatest comets in history have flown close to the sun, puffing themselves up with solar heat, before they became naked-eye wonders in the night sky.
Some comets like it hot, but Comet ISON was not one of them.
The much-anticipated flyby of the sun by Comet ISON on Thanksgiving Day 2013 is over, and instead of becoming a Great Comet….
Written by Karen C. Fox
Greenbelt, MD – After several days of continued observations, scientists continue to work to determine and to understand the fate of Comet ISON: There’s no doubt that the comet shrank in size considerably as it rounded the sun and there’s no doubt that something made it out on the other side to shoot back into space.
The question remains as to whether the bright spot seen moving away from the sun was simply debris, or whether a small nucleus of the original ball of ice was still there. Regardless, it is likely that it is now only dust.
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