Time To Check In With Comet 46P/Wirtanen

Time to check in on our current favorite comet. It was discovered by American astronomer Carl Wirtanen in January 1948. The “46P” part refers to it being the 46th periodic (P) comet discovered. Periodic comets, also known as short-period comets, revolve around the sun in fewer than 200 years. Those that take longer are called…
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Mars Gets Tight With Neptune Tonight

Mars will do us a favor tonight. If you point your binoculars at the planet this evening, snugged next to it will be another planet  — Neptune. Neptune, the most distant planet in the solar system, will appear just a quarter of a degree (half a full moon) to the lower right of Mars. Find…
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NASA’s Osiris-Rex Spacecraft Just Arrived At Asteroid Bennu

Howdy, neighbor. Launched two years ago, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft fired its thrusters today and pulled alongside the 800-foot-wide (244-meters) asteroid Bennu. It’s fascinating to see the similarities between Ryugu, the target of the Japanese Hayabusa-2 mission, and Bennu — both are strewn with rocks and boulders, both have a similar octahedral (doube-pyramid) shape and both…
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Planets And Moon Serve Up Sparkling Sights At Dawn

If you’re out at dawn — and it’s not too hard to be with December’s late sunrises — face east to watch the celestial traffic this week. Tomorrow morning (Dec. 3), the crescent moon will stand just 4.5° above the planet Venus, which is currently at “greatest brilliancy” and shining at magnitude –4.9. These two…
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Curiosity Finds Shiny Rock On Mars — Meteorite Maybe?

I like meteorites. Each arrives on Earth with a flash and bang after millions of years of space travel from the asteroid belt. And just like that, a space rock that would otherwise require a $150-million-dollar mission to snatch falls into our lap. Face to face with an emissary from 4.56 billion years ago, we’re…
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