The Lunar Planner
Current Astronomical News

New plans for NASA's Dawn Spacecraft 2018 Latest Images of Ceres taken from an altitude of 240 miles (385 kilometers) by NASA's Dawn spacecraft

Ceres by Dawn

The Center of Occator Crater. NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

• Dec. 27, 2017 - Permanently in residence at dwarf planet Ceres, Dawn is now preparing to add some finishing touches to its many images revealing its masterpiece of otherworldly beauty. Dawn will enter an eliptical orbit in mid-2018 that will take Dawn even closer, perhaps below 30 miles (50 kilometers). Summary from Marc Rayman's Blog, Dawn Mission Director and Chief Engineer Marc Rayman's Blog "Dear Long Disdawnce Travelers".

New IAU Press Release IAU Approves 86 New Star Names From Around the World

• Dec. 11, 2017 - The IAU stellar name catalogue now contains 313 approved star names. The new 86 star names are from Chinese, Coptic, Hindu, Mayan, Polynesian, South African and Aboriginal cultures—honoring the indigenous starlore of these cultures. iau1707 — Press Release

"Our Place in Space": Astronomy and art combine in a brand new Hubble-inspired exhibition

Hubble: Our Place In Space

For 26 years, the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has been expanding our cosmic horizons. In capturing an astronomical number of images, Hubble has revealed and shared the beauty, wonder, and complexity of the Universe. On February 1, 2017, a new exhibition called "Our Place in Space" openned in Venice, Italy. It presents a breathtaking visual journey, through our Solar System and out to the edge of the known Universe, alongside Hubble-inspired works by contemporary Italian artists....

After being on display in Venice the exhibition will be shown in the medieval town of Chiavenna, Italy, from May 13 to August 20, 2017. Afterwards it will be on display in Garching, Germany, in the ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre, from the spring of 2018. Further stops in other European countries, the USA and even Australia are being considered. Entrance to the exhibition is free of charge on all occasions. Hubble: Our Place in Space

The James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called JWST or Webb) will be a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror. The telescope will be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana in October of 2018. JWST will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide....

JWST was formerly known as the "Next Generation Space Telescope" (NGST); it was renamed in Sept. 2002 after a former NASA administrator, James Webb. JWST is an international collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is managing the development effort. The main industrial partner is Northrop Grumman; the Space Telescope Science Institute will operate JWST after launch....

Jupiter’s North Pole

Jupiter’s North Pole Unlike Anything Encountered in Solar System
Sept. 2, 2016

"NASA’s Juno spacecraft has sent back the first-ever images of Jupiter’s north pole, taken during the spacecraft’s first flyby of the planet with its instruments switched on. The images show storm systems and weather activity unlike anything previously seen on any of our solar system’s gas-giant planets.

Juno successfully executed the first of 36 orbital flybys on Aug. 27 when the spacecraft came about 2,500 miles (4,200 kilometers) above Jupiter’s swirling clouds. The download of six megabytes of data collected during the six-hour transit, from above Jupiter’s north pole to below its south pole, took one-and-a-half days. While analysis of this first data collection is ongoing, some unique discoveries have already made themselves visible...." (NASA)

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

Moon Phases 2016. In 4K Video

This 4K visualization shows the Moon's phase and libration at hourly intervals throughout 2016, as viewed from the northern hemisphere. Each frame represents one hour. In addition, this visualization shows the Moon's orbit position, sub-Earth and subsolar points, distance from the Earth at true scale, and labels of craters near the terminator. Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, NASA

The New Horizons spacecraft made its long awaited flyby past Pluto and Charon on July 14, 2015, bringing unprecedented images of Pluto and Charon. See images and videos at NASA New Horizons.

New Horizons Pluto and Charon by NASA

New Horizons Pluto & Charon by NASA July 2015

ESA's Gaia Mission (billion-star surveyor)
March, 2015
"Gaia is an ambitious mission to chart a three-dimensional map of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, in the process revealing the composition, formation and evolution of the Galaxy. Gaia will provide unprecedented positional and radial velocity measurements with the accuracies needed to produce a stereoscopic and kinematic census of about one billion stars in our Galaxy and throughout the Local Group. This amounts to about 1 per cent of the Galactic stellar population. The mission's ultimate goal is to create the largest, most precise 3D map of our Galaxy ever made." (ESA)

Mission Conception: 2000
Payload launched: Dec 19, 2013
Calibration and testing phase, First test Images: Early 2014
Science phase begins: Mid 2014 (five year operational phase)
First catalogue release, planned for summer 2016

Our Galaxy, the Milky Way

03 July 2015 - "This image, based on housekeeping data from ESA's Gaia satellite, is no ordinary depiction of the heavens. While the image portrays the outline of our Galaxy, the Milky Way, and of its neighbouring Magellanic Clouds, it was obtained in a rather unusual way." How this image was made.

ALMA - In Search for our Cosmic Origins
March, 2015
"The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), an international partnership of the European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere (ESO), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan in cooperation with the Republic of Chile, is the largest astronomical project in existence. ALMA is a single telescope of revolutionary design, composed initially of 66 high precision antennas located on the Chajnantor plateau, 5000 meters altitude in northern Chile." (ALMA)

ALMA Opens For Public Visits March 17, 2015

Astronomical & Earth News Archive

New Asteroid Families Discovered
May 29, 2013
Astronomers using data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) have identified 28 new families of asteroids. The findings are a critical step in understanding the origins of asteroid families, and the collisions thought to have created these rocky clans.

"We're separating zebras from the gazelles," said Joseph Masiero of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., who is lead author of a report on the new study that appears in the Astrophysical Journal. "Before, asteroid family members were harder to tell apart because they were traveling in nearby packs. But now we have a better idea of which asteroid belongs to which family."

Saturn's Super-sized Vortex

Saturn's Super-sized Vortex

Saturn's Unrest: Inside Saturn's Hex stirs a massive super-sized Huricane Vortex.
April 29, 2013

Saturn's Hex, nesting upon Saturn's North Pole, is large enough to fit two Earth's inside. The Hurricane-like Super Storm Vortex lies fixed within the Hex whirling about Saturn's north pole. The eye alone of this relentless vortex stretches about 2000 kilometers (1250 miles) across, with vaporous clouds whipping around the outer edge of the storm at about 150 meters per second (330 miles per hour).

Curiosity lands on Mars.

An artist's concept of NASA's Curiosity.

Mars Rover "Curiosity" Lands on Mars
August 5, 2012

Curiosity landed at 10:32 p.m. PDT Aug. 5, 2012

Mars Rover "Curiosity leaves Earth
November 26, 2011

NASA's biggest and most capable Mars rover ever left Earth this morning in a picture perfect launch from Cape Canaveral. The new rover, named "Curiosity", is due to reach the Red Planet in August 2012.


Curiosity finds streambed  on Mars.

To learn more about Curiosity's landing site on Mars, check out the video: "The Strange Attraction of Gale Crater":

Mars Rover "Curiosity" finds streambed on Mars
Sept 27, 2012


Our Milkyway Galaxy's gamma-ray-emitting bubbles.

LRO and the Real-time 3D Moon
June 21, 2012

Robert Kooima demonstrates scalable real-time 3D spherical data rendering by combining a variety of data sets captured by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

* This is quite impressive !

Our Milkyway Galaxy's gamma-ray-emitting bubbles.

NASA's Fermi Telescope Finds Giant Structure in our Galaxy

NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has unveiled a previously unseen structure centered in the Milky Way. There are two gamma-ray-emitting bubbles that extend 25,000 light-years north and south of the galactic center....

NASA's GRAIL mission to the Moon.

Venus (NASA)

Is the Rotational Rate of Venus Changing?
February 10, 2012

Could Venus be shifting gears?

ESA’s Venus Express spacecraft has discovered that our cloud-covered neighbour spins a little slower than previously measured. Peering through the dense atmosphere in the infrared, the orbiter found surface features were not quite where they should be.

DAWN - NASA Discovery Mission: Vesta & Ceres

New Vesta Discoveries by NASA's Dawn spacecraft
NASA's Dawn probe, now orbiting Vesta in the asteroid belt, has found some surprising things on the giant asteroid--things that have prompted one researcher to declare Vesta "the smallest terrestrial planet." Dec 9, 2011 post

Cool Video: NASA's Dawn spacecraft flies around Vesta.
Sept 16, 2011 post
A new video from NASA's Dawn spacecraft takes us on a flyover above the surface of the giant asteroid Vesta.

Saturn's Super Storm
May, 2011 post

"NASA's Cassini spacecraft and a European Southern Observatory ground-based telescope are tracking the growth of a giant early-spring storm in Saturn's northern hemisphere so powerful that it stretches around the entire planet. The rare storm has been wreaking havoc for months and shooting plumes of gas high into the planet's atmosphere...."

This is only the sixth storm to be recorded since 1876, and the last was in 1990.

Oct 21, 2010 Lunar Impact Uncovered More Than Just Moon Water. Nearly a year after announcing the discovery of water molecules on the moon, scientists have revealed new data uncovered by NASA's Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, and Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO—and it's more than just water....
Full Story:

Spacequakes Ruble Near Earth. Researchers using NASA's fleet of five THEMIS spacecraft have discovered a form of space weather that packs the punch of an earthquake....
Full Story: Spacequakes NASA July 27, 2010

Mars Express and Phobos
To say Phobos, a moon of Mars, is hollow is a bit of an over statement, however it has been concluded by Mars Express that the interior of Phobos likely contains large voids. Mars Express passes by Phobos about every five months providing opportunity for close-up analysis. The next flybys will occur in August 2010 and January 2011. More at the The ESA Mars Express Blog.

Update Oct 2010

More about Mars, Mars Cycles....

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory: The Sun

The Sun - Solar Dynamics Observatory
Image Credit: SDO/AIA

NASA's New Solar Dynamics Observatory Goes Live!
The Sun as we've never seen it.

NASA's New Solar Dynamics Observatory is beaming back stunning new images of the sun, revealing our own star as never seen before. Warning, the images you are about to see could take your breath away. April 21, 2010 Press Release: First Light for the Solar Dynamics Observatory.

Solar Dynamics Observatory home page

A complete gallery of SDO's First Light images and data
SDO Gallery

NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope Discovers its First Five Exoplanets. NASA's Kepler space telescope, designed to find Earth-size planets in the habitable zone of sun-like stars, has discovered its first five new exoplanets, or planets beyond our solar system. The discoveries were announced Monday, Jan. 4, by the members of the Kepler science team during a news briefing at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington. Full Story: NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope

Our solar system is passing through an interstellar cloud. Astronomers call the cloud we're running into now the Local Interstellar Cloud or "Local Fluff" for short. It's about 30 light years wide and contains a wispy mixture of hydrogen and helium atoms at a temperature of 6000 C. Full Story: Voyager Makes an Interstellar Discovery
Related: Giant Ribbon at the Edge of the Solar System

Dynamic Mercury, The Winged Footed Messenger - Nov. 3, 2009: The MESSENGER spacecraft's third flyby of the planet Mercury has given scientists, for the first time, an almost complete view of the planet's surface and revealed some dramatic changes in Mercury's comet-like tail. Full Story & Images: Hidden Territory on Mercury Revealed

Saturn's Super Ring - October 7, 2009: NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has discovered an enormous and previously unknown infrared ring around Saturn. Full Story: Saturn's Super Ring

More about Saturn; Saturn's Synodic Cycles....

The Fall of the Maya - October 7, 2009: Archeologists are using NASA satellites and supercomputers to crack the mystery of the ancient Maya. New findings suggest the Maya may have played a key role in their own downfall. Full Story: Fall of the Maya

The Trilogy is Complete: The third image of ESO’s GigaGalaxy Zoom project has just been released. "The GigaGalaxy Zoom project’s dedicated website has proved very successful, drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors from all around the world," says project coordinator Henri Boffin. "With the trilogy now complete, viewers will be able to explore a magnificently detailed cosmic environment on many different scales and take a breathtaking dive into our Milky Way."

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory: Astronomers are celebrating 10 years of discovery by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. Today's story highlights some of Chandra's most surprising, violent and beautiful images of the high-energy Universe. Full Story: Chandra X-ray Observatory

"The Hubble Deep Field: The Most Important Image Ever Taken"

Need some Perspective?
Watch this Video:

"The Hubble Deep Field: The Most Important Image Ever Taken"

Dedicated to Carl Sagan

European Space Agency's Herschel Space Observatory

Move over Hubble: The Euopean Space Agency (ESA) launches Herschel, the largest space telescope of its kind; and the Planck space observatory.

ESA Press Release

Herschel in Depth
May 14, 2009