The current photo of Ultima Thule exposes an extremely smooth face

The current photo of Ultima Thule exposes an extremely smooth face

Ultima Thule has a new mug shot. The closest-yet image of the ancient Kuiper Belt object, captured as the New Horizons spacecraft flew by January 1, shows a relatively smooth face unmarred by impact craters.   “The thing is just not covered in craters,” says planetary scientist Kelsi Singer of the Southwest Research Institute in…
The moon’s craters recommend Earth hasn’t removed great deals of previous effects

The moon’s craters recommend Earth hasn’t removed great deals of previous...

A new look at the moon’s craters suggests the Earth and moon both suffered a sharp increase in impacts around 290 million years ago, and Earth has kept its biggest scars. Geologists long assumed that erosion and tectonic activity had erased Earth’s craters so thoroughly that “you couldn’t say anything about the craters on Earth…
China simply landed the very first spacecraft on the moon’s farside

China simply landed the very first spacecraft on the moon’s farside

China’s Chang’e-4 lander and rover just became the first spacecraft to land on the farside of the moon. The lander touched down at 9:26 p.m. Eastern time on January 2, according to an announcement from the China National Space Administration. The spacecraft is part of a series of Chinese space missions named Chang’e (pronounced CHONG-uh)…
New Horizons reveals Ultima Thule appears like a snowman, or perhaps BB-8

New Horizons reveals Ultima Thule appears like a snowman, or perhaps...

The results are in: Ultima Thule, the distant Kuiper Belt object that got a close visit from the New Horizons spacecraft on New Year’s Day, looks like two balls stuck together. “What you are seeing is the first contact binary ever explored by a spacecraft, two separate objects that are now joined together,” principal investigator…
Live updates: New Horizons’ flyby of a remote Kuiper Belt item

Live updates: New Horizons’ flyby of a remote Kuiper Belt item

Editor’s note: This story was updated December 31–January 1 with dispatches from astronomy writer Lisa Grossman, who was at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., with the New Horizons team.  Updated 1:20 p.m., January 1 The last best view of Ultima Thule that New Horizons sent back before last night’s flyby gave a…
Get live updates on New Horizons’ flyby of a far-off Kuiper Belt item

Get live updates on New Horizons’ flyby of a far-off Kuiper...

Editor’s note: This story will be updated December 31–January 1 with dispatches from astronomy writer Lisa Grossman, who will be at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., with the New Horizons team. You can also see her updates on Twitter (@astrolisa) and on Science News’ Instagram feed (@sciencenewsmagazine). After a journey of…
New Horizons prepares for its close encounter with Ultima Thule

New Horizons prepares for its close encounter with Ultima Thule

Ultima Thule is one of the solar system’s most hermitlike homebodies. In the 4.6 billion years since the small icy world formed, astronomers think that it has never moved from its original orbit about 6.5 billion kilometers from the sun. And no other large object has ever come calling. That’s about to change. Just after…
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx discovers indications of water on the asteroid Bennu

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx discovers indications of water on the asteroid Bennu

As the asteroid Bennu comes into sharper focus, planetary scientists are seeing signs of water locked up in the asteroid’s rocks, NASA team members announced December 10. “It’s one of the things we were hoping to find,” team member Amy Simon of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said in a news conference…
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has actually lastly come to asteroid Bennu

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has actually lastly come to asteroid Bennu

A spacecraft designed to pick up pieces of an asteroid and bring them back to Earth has finally reached its destination. After a two-year journey, NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft caught up with asteroid Bennu, currently located nearly 130 million kilometers from Earth, on December 3. “We have arrived!” Javier Cerna, a telecommunications systems engineer with aerospace…
NASA’s InSight lander has actually touched down securely on Mars

NASA’s InSight lander has actually touched down securely on Mars

NASA’s InSight lander touched down on Mars on November 26 for a study of the Red Planet’s insides. “Touchdown confirmed, InSight is on the surface of Mars!” said Christine Szalai, a spacecraft engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., in a live broadcast from mission control. The lander sent its first picture —…
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