Life’s Building Blocks Found On Dwarf Planet Ceres

Organic molecules — those made primarily of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms — are essential for life as we know it.  Carbon is the coolest, most special atom of all. Not only can it link in multiple ways to other atoms, but it happily links with itself to form incredibly complex molecules, the kind that…
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Asteroid Sample Mission Sends First Jupiter Pix, Searches For Earth Trojans

En route to the asteroid Bennu, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx space probe captured this image of Jupiter and three of its moons. It make look plain vanilla, but consider that the spacecraft was 76 million miles (122 million km) from Earth and 418 million miles (673 million km) from Jupiter on Feb. 12, when the photo was…
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Asteroid Vesta At Its Best — Here’s How To See It

Lately, I’ve talked about how to find planets, but there are lots of other planet-like bodies in the night sky — the asteroids. As of March 2016, we know of 1.3 million of them, 750,000 of which have calculated orbits. The name asteroid comes from “aster,” Latin for star, and it perfectly describes their star-like…
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NASA Lured By Heavy Metal, Plans Missions To Psyche And Beyond

When most people think of a meteorite, they imagine a lump of iron-nickel metal. And while there are plenty of those, stony meteorites peppered with fine metal flakes are far more common. Psyche, a robotic spacecraft, scheduled to launch in October 2023, will target one of these sources of those ‘heavy metal’ meteorites, when it…
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Space Sure Is Busy — Near-Earth Asteroid Count Tops 15,000

15,000 and counting, baby. That’s the number of known near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), with an average of 30 new discoveries added each week. Astronomers define “near Earth” as objects that come within 121 million miles of the sun at their closest, a distance is equal to 1.3 astronomical units (a.u.). An a.u. equals the distance between the…
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