Colossal Cometary Collisions in Beta Pictoris

The massive carbon monoxide clouds observed in the Beta Pictoris planetary system are just weird. The star's ultraviolet light breaks down the gas within a century, so massive Mars-sized comets need to be constantly colliding to supply new gas. » 4/07/14 11:11am 4/07/14 11:11am

Rosetta Just Took Its First Glimpse of Its Destination Comet

Rosetta, the comet-exploring spacecraft, has finally gotten within sight of the comet it's been traveling towards for the first time since waking up from its 2-year long slumber through deep space — and it sent back the pictures to prove it. » 3/27/14 9:00am 3/27/14 9:00am

Comet ISON Approaches

Last night, potential "Comet of the Century" ISON brightened by an order of magnitude or more as it continued on its dive toward the Sun. That means it is now visible to the naked eye. This photograph, captured by astrophotographer Mike Hankey, shows the comet as it appeared this morning, in outburst, with multiple… » 11/14/13 2:14pm 11/14/13 2:14pm

How to Spot Comet ISON in the Early Morning Sky

OK, you’ve waited patiently for "Comet of the Century" ISON to brighten and reappear in the dawn sky. Now it has. Now you’re chomping at the bit for a look at it in your telescope. Before you set the alarm and venture into the night, let’s prepare for what to expect. The better you know your target, the easier it will be … » 9/04/13 11:09am 9/04/13 11:09am

Hubble Snaps Breathtaking New Picture of ISON, “Comet of the Century"

When Comet ISON's trajectory brings it scorchingly close to the Sun later this year, astronomers believe it could emerge from its close encounter as one of the brightest comets ever seen from Earth. Now, Hubble has captured a stunning image of the approaching ice-ball in flight, against a backdrop bursting with nearby… » 7/17/13 8:20am 7/17/13 8:20am

This "comet factory" reveals first secrets of planetary formation

Planets have to start out somewhere, and the leading theory is that they begin as dust particles clumping together to form larger and larger building blocks, before finally emerging eons later as full-blown planets. But the exact physics that would allow such clumps to form has long been frustratingly unclear. » 6/09/13 5:00pm 6/09/13 5:00pm

NASA Captures New Photo of Potential "Comet of the Century"

In November of this year, a comet by the name of ISON will graze past the Sun. Its close encounter has the potential to ignite the comet in such a way that it could be visible from Earth in the middle of the day, and even outshine the Moon at night. Astronomers say it is a potential "comet of the century." And this, dear … » 3/31/13 10:30am 3/31/13 10:30am

A comet made of marshmallow bunnies and chicks destroys the Earth in…

The best thing about this time of year isn't a little extra daylight in the evening or the blossoming of spring flowers; it's the endlessly inventive dioramas people make with those sugar-coated marshmallow treats known as Peeps. In this one, posted by redditor jostler57 on behalf of a friend, we witness the… » 3/14/13 12:40pm 3/14/13 12:40pm

NASA's Guide to Viewing the Comet PANSTARRS this Month

Yesterday, the comet 2011 L4 (called PANSTARRS after the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System) became visible in the Northern Hemisphere for the first time, meaning some of us north of the equator will have a chance to view a comet before ISON's passage in the fall. But you'll need the right conditions… » 3/09/13 1:00pm 3/09/13 1:00pm

What's the difference between a comet, asteroid, meteor, meteoroid and…

With all the recent buzz over asteroid AD14, the meteor over Chelyabinsk, the fragments of meteorite recovered in Russia's Ural mountains, and yesterday's news that the fireball originated from our solar system's asteroid belt, one can't help but wonder: what's the difference between all these -oids, -ors and -ites?… » 2/27/13 12:40pm 2/27/13 12:40pm

"Once-in-a-century" ISON comet could be visible from Earth during the…

Last year, astronomers using the Russian International Scientific Optical Network (ISON) spied something intriguing just beyond the orbit of Jupiter: a cometary body so large, and with a trajectory that will bring it so close to the Sun, that it could potentially be visible from Earth in the middle of the day (not… » 1/16/13 11:20am 1/16/13 11:20am

The Best Photos From This Weekend's Orionid Meteor Shower

This weekend marked the peak of this year's stunning Orionid meteor shower. Photographs of the annual celestial lightshow are still rolling in (stargazers can expect to spot intermittent meteors during predawn hours for the next few days), but here are a few of our favorites so far. » 10/22/12 8:00am 10/22/12 8:00am

Tons of…