Revamping Spitzer to probe exoplanets

Now approaching its 10th anniversary, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has evolved into a premier observatory for an endeavor not envisioned in its original design: the study of worlds around other stars, called exoplanets. While the engineers and scientists who built Spitzer did not have this goal in mind, their visionary work made this unexpected capability possible.

ESA's Cluster Satellites in closest ever dance in space

Since 2000, the four identical satellites of the Cluster quartet have been probing Earth’s magnetosphere in three dimensions. This week, two of them made their closest-ever approach, just 4 km, enabling valuable data to be acquired with unprecedented detail.

Communications tests go the distance for MAVEN spacecraft

It's not easy to simulate millions of miles electronically, but that's what engineers did recently as they tested the all-important communications system the MAVEN spacecraft will use to relay its study results from Mars orbit to Earth-bound researchers.

Boeing and Aerojet Rocketdyne test CST-100 thrusters

Boeing's CST-100 spacecraft is one step closer to liftoff after a gauntlet of test firings of its steering jets at White Sands Space Harbor in Las Cruces, N.M. Boeing and Aerojet Rocketdyne recently completed the tests, which simulated the demanding environment of space. The tests assessed how the thrusters -- which fire with 1,500 pounds of force -- will speed up, slow down and move the spacecraft while carrying NASA astronauts in Earth’s orbit.

NASA's Deep Space comet hunter mission comes to a close

After almost 9 years in space that included an unprecedented July 4th impact and subsequent flyby of a comet, an additional comet flyby, and the return of approximately 500,000 images of celestial objects, NASA's Deep Impact mission has ended.

NASA Curiosity Rover detects no methane on Mars

Data from NASA's Curiosity rover has revealed the Martian environment lacks methane. This is a surprise to researchers because previous data reported by U.S. and international scientists indicated positive detections. The roving laboratory performed extensive tests to search for traces of Martian methane.

Young stars cooking in Prawn Nebula

The glowing jumble of gas clouds visible in this new image make up a huge stellar nursery nicknamed the Prawn Nebula. Taken using the VLT Survey Telescope at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile, this may well be the sharpest picture ever taken of this object. It shows clumps of hot new-born stars nestled in among the clouds that make up the nebula.

Taking a virtual tour of the Vesta asteroid

An atlas of the asteroid, Vesta, created from images taken during the Dawn Mission’s Low Altitude Mapping Orbit (LAMO), is now accessible for the public to explore online. The set of maps has been created from mosaics of 10 000 images from Dawn’s framing camera (FC) instrument, taken at an average altitude of about 210 kilometres.

Underground living prepares astronauts for space

This week sees the start of ESA’s next underground training course for astronauts. Six new and experienced astronauts from all over the world will work together to overcome the difficulties of working in a new environment performing a full scientific programme with limited supplies – similar to working on the International Space Station.

NASA Dryden engineers capture dramatic supersonic shockwave images

Elusive schlieren images of supersonic shockwaves emanating from NASA F-15 and F/A-18 aircraft flying at supersonic speeds were captured during recent pilot proficiency flights.

NASA spacecraft embarks on historic journey into interstellar space

NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft officially is the first human-made object to venture into interstellar space. The 36-year-old probe is about 12 billion miles (19 billion kilometers) from our sun. New and unexpected data indicate Voyager 1 has been traveling for about one year through plasma, or ionized gas, present in the space between stars.

Hubble uncovers largest known group of star clusters, clues to dark matter

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered the largest known population of globular star clusters, an estimated 160,000, swarming like bees inside the crowded core of the giant grouping of galaxies known as Abell 1689.

Plants in space?!

At work on the International Space Station, researchers studying plant and cell growth in space encountered a challenge. Imaging revealed interesting spaceflight-associated root morphologies.

Long drive puts NASA Mars Rover near planned waypoint

NASA's Mars rover Curiosity now has a view of a patch of exposed bedrock scientists selected for a few days of close-up study, the first such study since the rover began its long trek to Mount Sharp two months ago.

This comet was hidden in plain sight

For 30 years, a large near-Earth asteroid wandered its lone, intrepid path, passing before the scrutinizing eyes of scientists while keeping something to itself: 3552 Don Quixote, whose journey stretches to the orbit of Jupiter, now appears to be a comet.  

NEXT provides lasting propulsion and high speeds for deep space missions

Ion propulsion used to exist only in the imagination of science fiction writers. But after years of research and development NASA is poised to equip some of its most important deep space missions with ion engines that can nudge spacecraft using charged particles accelerated to blistering speeds of up to 90,000 miles per hour. And in the vastness of space, those engines need to push continuously for years.

Hubble catches a spiral in the air pump

Lying more than 110 million light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Antlia (The Air Pump) is the spiral galaxy IC 2560, shown here in an image from NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

11 spacecraft show interstellar wind changed direction over 40 years

Like the wind adjusting course in the middle of a storm, scientists have discovered that the particles streaming into the solar system from interstellar space have most likely changed direction over the last 40 years. Such information can help us map out our place within the galaxy surrounding us, and help us understand our place in space. The results, based on data spanning four decades from 11 different spacecraft, were published in Science on Sept. 5, 2013.

Coldest Brown Dwarfs blur lines between stars and planets

Astronomers are constantly on the hunt for ever-colder star-like bodies, and two years ago a new class of objects was discovered by researchers using NASA's WISE space telescope. However, until now no one has known exactly how cool their surfaces really are - some evidence suggested they could be room temperature.

A radiating beauty on Mars

Exceptional structures deposited and shaped by water and winds adorn these interlocking craters and sculpt radiating patterns in the sands of Mars.