October 24, 2016
  • A photon leaps off the sun and, about 500 seconds later, bounces off our Earth. Light has been dancing and rebounding from faraway and nearby celestial objects for more than 13 billion years. It's time you caught some of it for your very own.

    That's what telescopes do; they gather light. But which telescope you choose to collect that radiance will vary according to your needs and budget. Our editors have selected a few of the best options in four categories. Click on each to read a review of the telescopes in these groups:

    Best Hobbyist Telescopes for Serious Skywatchers
    Best Small, Portable Telescopes for Travelers and City-Dwellers
    Easiest Telescopes for Beginners (Easy to Use)
    Best Inexpensive Telescopes (A Great Gift Idea)

    After looking carefully at a variety of telescopes, we selected the ones that have enough horsepower to drive many years of satisfying observation but that don't break the bank. You can read our in-depth review of the best hobbyist telescopes here. See our top choices below:

    Editors' Choice: Celestron SkyProdigy 130

    Reflector / AltAz / Tripod / Go-To
    Easiest setup; totally self-aligning on the sky

    May 04, 2016
  • Monthly skywatching information is provided to by Geoff Gaherty of Starry Night Education, the leader in space science curriculum solutions. Follow Starry Night on Twitter

    Editor's note: If you have an amazing skywatching photo you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please contact managing editor Tariq Malik at 

    January 31, 2017
  • Friday, May 6, 3:30 p.m. EDT. The moon is not visible on the date of New Moon because it is too close to the sun, but can be seen low in the east as a narrow crescent a morning or two before, just before sunrise. It is visible low in the west an evening or two after New Moon.
    May 04, 2016
  • Editor's note: According to NASA, the will peak during daylight hours of May 5 across the United States. Slightly higher rates are likely overnight May 4-5 than on May 5-6 but the shower's broad peak means that both nights will have meteors. Some Eta Aquarid meteors may be visible for a few days before and after the peak. 

    The Eta Aquarids are one of two annual showers caused by Halley's Comet. (The other one is the Orionids, in October.) They are named after their apparent "radiant" point in the constellation Aquarius, near one of its brightest stars, Eta Aquarii.

    The shower is active throughout April and November. When it peaks, according to NASA, observers can expect about 30-60 meteors per hour. Generally the peak is spread out over about a week centered on May 7, according to the American Meteor Society.

    April 19, 2016
  • Launching the first-ever interstellar mission won't be easy.

    On Tuesday (April 12), a group of scientists, engineers and investors announced Breakthrough Starshot, a$100 million initiative to study sending tiny robotic probes to the nearest starsystem beyond the sun, Alpha Centauri, within a generation. The project faces a number of challenges, some of them more problematic than others.

    Starshot aims to demonstrate the technologies required for interstellar flight. The project's architects envision building numerous spacecraft, each the size of a postage stamp and each equipped with a gossamer sail made of reflective material. A giant array of ground-based lasers would fire pulses at these miniprobes, whose sails would catch the light. The "nanocraft" would thereby be accelerated to up to 20 percent the speed of light — 134 million mph (215 million km/h) — in a matter of minutes. [Breakthrough Starshot in Pictures: Laser Sail Nanocraft to See Alpha Centauri]

    At the kickoff presentation Tuesday, Russian billionaire Yuri Milner appeared with a number of other Breakthrough Starshot team members, including physicists Stephen Hawking and Freeman Dyson; producer Ann Druyan; former NASA astronaut and leader of the 100 Year Starship program Mae Jemison; and the project's executive director, Pete Worden, until recently the director of NASA's Ames Research Center.

    The postage-stamp-sized space probes of Breakthrough Starshot could make a flyby of planets around Alpha Centauri within 20 years after launch. See how Breakthrough Starshot could work in our full infographic.
    The postage-stamp-sized space probes of Breakthrough Starshot could make a flyby of planets around Alpha Centauri within 20 years after launch. See how Breakthrough Starshot could work in our full infographic.
    Credit: by Karl Tate, Infographics Artist
    The group outlined the t

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    April 06, 2016
  • Microsoft's virtual reality headset, the HoloLens, isn't yet commercially available, but the amazing new tech is coming to the Kennedy Space Center this summer, and offering visitors  a "mixed-reality" tour of Mars. 

    NASA has announced that the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) Visitor Complex in Florida will host a new exhibit called "Destination: Mars" that will let visitors walk around on the Martian surface without ever leaving Earth. For the "mixed-reality" experience, visitors will don the HoloLens headset that shows realistic, 3D views of the Red Planet's surface. To make the experience more realistic, visitors will wear the goggles while walking around in a physical space, to further create the illusion they are on Mars.

    The Red Planet tour is led by Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin — or at least, a hologram of Aldrin. Visitors will also be guided across the Martian surface by Erisa Hines (also in hologram form), who is a driver for the Mars Curiosity rover at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. [Amazing Views of Mars from NASA's Curiosity Rover]

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    March 29, 2016
  • Launches of liquid-fueled rockets may be relatively routine today, but 90 years ago, they were brand-new. In fact, the first liquid-fueled rocket launched on March 16, 1926, under the direction of rocketry pioneer Robert Goddard.

    A newly re-released animation (shown here) shows NASA employees celebrating the launch of Goddard's small rocket during a 1976 celebration (which was the 50th anniversary of the historic test flight).

    The looped animation shows employees gathered in front of a school bus at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, which was named in honor of Robert Goddard, watching the rocket replica take off. Liquid propellant is used for most major space launches today, from human flights to interplanetary missions.

    Goddard's first liquid-fueled rocket was small and did not fly all that high, but it marked a big change in how rocketry is done. Previously, all rocket launches had been done with solid materials. That work dated back to the 13th century, when Chinese engineers used gunpowder when repelling enemies.

    A recreation of Robert Goddard's first liquid-fueled rocket blasts off during a 1976 celebration marking the 50th anniversary of Goddard's initial launch on March 16, 1926.

    A recreation of Robert Goddard's first liquid-fueled rocket blasts off during a 1976 celebration marking the 50th anniversary of Goddard's initial launch on March 16, 1926.

    Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

    Goddard, however, believed that liquid would offer more advantages than solid materials. Liquid rockets provide more thrust per unit of fuel and allow engineers to specify how long the rocket will stay lit.

    It took 17 years of work for Goddard's first launch to fly.

    "It looked almost magical as it rose, without any appreciably greater noise or flame, as if it said, 'I've been here long enough; I think I'll be going somewhere else, if you don't mind,'" Goddard wrote in his journal the next day, according to a NASA statement.

    Goddard dreamed of seeing interplanetary travel made possible. It didn't happen while he was still alive — he died in 1945 — but liquid rocketry became very important in space history.

    The first satellite, Sputnik, was launched in 1957 using a rocket that in part used liquid fuel. Liquid fuel was also used for the massive Saturn V rocket that took astronauts to the moon in the 1960s and 1970s. Liquid remains the fuel type of choice for human missions to this day; because the burn can be controlled, it is safer than solid rocket propellants.

    Other rockets with liquid fuels in one or more stages include the European Ariane 5 (which will launch NASA's James Webb Space Telescope), Russia's Soyuz boosters, United Launch Alliance's Atlas V and Delta booster family, and SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, among many others.

    In his lifetime and after his death, Goddard received more than 200 patents for his inventions. One of his major works included inventing multistage rockets, which are a foundation for just about every spaceflight today. They allow a rocket to have multiple fuel tanks and engines, which are discarded as the rocket gets higher in the atmosphere.

    "The U.S. failed to recognize the full potential of his [Goddard's] work until after his death — in fact, some of his ideas about reaching outer space were ridiculed during his lifetime," NASA wrote in the same statement. "But the first liquid-fueled rocket flight was as significant to space exploration as the Wright brothers' first flight was to air travel, and 90 years later, his patents are still integral to spaceflight technology.

    March 10, 2016
  • The Apollo program, also known as Project Apollo, was the third United States human spaceflight program carried out by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which accomplished landing the first humans on the Moon from 1969 to 1972. First conceived during Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration as a three-man spacecraft to follow the one-man Project Mercury which put the first Americans in space, Apollo was later dedicated to President John F. Kennedy's national goal of "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" by the end of the 1960s, which he proposed in a May 25, 1961, address to Congress. Project Mercury was followed by the two-man Project Gemini (1962–66). The first manned flight of Apollo was in 1968.

    Kennedy's goal was accomplished on the Apollo 11 mission when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed their Lunar Module (LM) on July 20, 1969, and walked on the lunar surface, while Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit in the Command/Service Module (CSM), and all three landed safely on Earth on July 24. Five subsequent Apollo missions also landed astronauts on the Moon, the last in December 1972. In these six spaceflights, twelve men walked on the Moon.

    Apollo ran from 1961 to 1972, and was supported by the two-man Gemini program which ran concurrently with it from 1962 to 1966. Gemini missions developed some of the space travel techniques that were necessary for the success of the Apollo missions. Apollo used Saturn family rockets as launch vehicles. Apollo/Saturn vehicles were also used for an Apollo Applications Program, which consisted of Skylab, a space station that supported three manned missions in 1973–74, and the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project, a joint Earth orbit mission with the Soviet Union in 1975.

    The Apollo program succeeded in achieving its goal of manned lunar landing, despite the major setback of a 1967 Apollo 1 cabin fire that killed the entire crew during a pre-launch test. After the first landing, sufficient flight hardware remained for nine follow-on landings with a plan for extended lunar geological and astrophysical exploration. Budget cuts forced the cancellation of three of these. Five of the remaining six missions achieved successful landings, but the Apollo 13 landing was prevented by an oxygen tank explosion in transit to the Moon, which disabled the command spacecraft's propulsion and life support. The crew returned to Earth safely by using the Lunar Module as a "lifeboat" for these functions.

    Apollo set several major human spaceflight milestones. It stands alone in sending manned missions beyond low Earth orbit. Apollo 8 was the first manned spacecraft to orbit another celestial body, while the final Apollo 17 mission marked the sixth Moon landing and the ninth manned mission beyond low Earth orbit. The program returned 842 pounds (382 kg) of lunar rocks and soil to Earth, greatly contributing to the understanding of the Moon's composition and geological history. The program laid the foundation for NASA's current human spaceflight capability, and funded construction of its Johnson Space Center and Kennedy Space Center. Apollo also spurred advances in many areas of technology incidental to rocketry and manned spaceflight, including avionics, telecommunications, and computers.

    March 10, 2016
  • You don't have to visit Indonesia to photograph the total eclipse of the sun today (March 8).

    Though the "path of totality" for today's solar eclipse is limited to islands in Southeast Asia and the Pacific Ocean region, you can watch the celestial event online live via the Slooh Community Observatory beginning at 6 p.m. EST (2300 GMT), or here at, courtesy of Slooh. (It will be Wednesday, March 9 local time for eclipse viewers in Indonesia.)

    People can also capture and share eclipse images on their favorite social media sites using Slooh's recently launched StarShare Camera. [The Total Solar Eclipse of 2016 Explained]

    "This will be the first major show [in which the StarShare Camera] has been available to the public, and so we are excited to give the public the ability to take and share photos via social media, which will draw more people to the event," Slooh founder Mike Paolucci told via email.

    "It is our intention to drive as many people as possible worldwide to share this moment of wonder together, toward our mission of celebrating mankind's common cause under a shared sky," Paolucci added.

    Since its inception in 2002, Sloohhas offered people around the world the opportunity to see real-time, online views of celestial objects and events captured by professional-grade telescopes. Recently, Slooh unveiled its StarShare Camera, which allows viewers to snap and share photographs of such observations. The software interacts with various telescope feeds, converting the image types into Web footage that casual astronomers can enjoy.

    "The images that come out of StarShare will be superior as a result of the expertise of the people using the equipment, the high quality of the equipment being used at the best locations and the resolution of the imagery," Paolucci said.

    This NASA graphic shows how much of the sun will be covered by the moon for parts of southeast Asia on March 9, 2016 during a total solar eclipse. Shown here is a total solar eclipse for southern Borneo at 0030 GMT, while nearby regions see a partial eclipse.
    This NASA graphic shows how much of the sun will be covered by the moon for parts of southeast Asia on March 9, 2016 during a total solar eclipse. Shown here is a total solar eclipse for southern Borneo at 0030 GMT, while nearby regions see a partial eclipse.
    Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio
    For today's eclipse, Slooh will waive the charge normally required to access the StarShare camera, allowing visitors to capture unlimited photos and time-lapse creations, he added.

    "All we ask is that they share the heck out of them!" Paolucci said.

    For today's event, Slooh will have feeds lined up from Hawaii to Indonesia. Some feeds will capture the total solar eclipse, while others will offer a view of a partial eclipse. The various angles provide redundancy in case weather blocks one or more sites and also allow viewers to grasp what is happening over the course of the event, Slooh representatives said.

    Although live observers of the solar eclipse should remember to don eye protection, Slooh's viewers will not need to take such precautions.

    You can find Slooh's StarShare Camera on Slooh's total solar eclipse webcast feed here:

    Editor's note: If you safely capture an amazing photo of the March 8 total solar eclipse and would like to share it with us and our news partners for a story or gallery, send images and comments to managing editor Tariq Malik at (This article was edited to clarify the correct local time of the eclipse.)

    Follow Nola Taylor Redd on Twitter @NolaTRedd or Google+. Follow us at @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published on


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    April 05, 2016
  • A brilliant column of fire, blasting out the back of a rocket ship, lit up the cool blue sky above the west Texas desert on Saturday (April 2), when the private spaceflight company Blue Origin successfully launched and landed its New Shepard vehicle for the third time.

    Blue Origin's photos and amazing video of the New Shepard launch show the rocket heading skyward, where it eventually separated from the crew capsule (although no one was inside). The crew capsule parachuted back to Earth, but the rocket booster used its thrusters to make a graceful vertical landing.

    This is the third time Blue Origin has flown this particular New Shepard vehicle, which makes the test flight somewhat historic. The company (which has been using the motto of "Launch. Land. Repeat." for the flights) is aiming to dramatically lower the cost of suborbital spaceflights by reusing its boosters, rather than discarding them, which is what engineers have had to do with nearly every other rocket in history. Check out more photos from New Shepard's third launch and landing here.