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Science Facts Written by NASA Headquarters


A Ring Around a Dying Star

In November 2002, sky watchers were viewing the glow of meteors from the Leonid meteor shower burning up in Earth's atmosphere. They had been anticipating this celestial light show for months, ... Continue reading

This photograph of the coil-shaped Helix Nebula is one of the largest and most detailed celestial images ever made.

Wetter not Necessarily Better in Amazon Basin

June through September is the dry season for the Amazon Basin of South America. Yet the basin's dry season may be getting uncharacteristically wetter, according to NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center ... Continue reading

The Amazon Basin is a hot, moist and often rainy region.

Light Fantastic

On the next hot summer day, imagine what would happen if the Sun suddenly became one million times brighter. Ice cream would quickly melt, sunscreen lotion wouldn't work very well, and that's just the ... Continue reading

Series of images over time of the light echo from the star known as V838 Monocerotis or V 838 Mon.

Hats Off to the Sombrero

This nearly edge-on view of the Sombrero galaxy shows that the disks of spiral galaxies are incredibly thin. The majestic spiral arms cannot be seen in this side view of the Sombrero, named because it ... Continue reading

Hubble mosaic of the majestic Sombrero galaxy.

Backyard Telescopes for New Planets. Is it Possible?

Fifteen years ago, the largest telescopes in the world had yet to locate a planet orbiting another star. Today telescopes no larger than those available in department stores are proving capable of ... Continue reading

Artist's concept of Terrestrial Planet Finder (TPF).

Venus Is Hot Stuff

At first glance, if Earth had a twin, it would be Venus. The two planets are similar in size, mass, composition, and distance from the Sun. But there the similarities end. Venus has no ocean. Venus is ... Continue reading


Live Fast, Blow Hard, and Die Young

Massive stars lead short, yet spectacular lives. And, they usually do not go quietly, instead often blowing themselves apart in supernova explosions. Astronomers are curious about the details of the ... Continue reading

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory data (blue) and optical observations (green and red) reveal the region around a doomed massive star called HD 192163.

Retreating Glaciers Spur Alaskan Earthquakes

Could an extra warm summer cause an earthquake in your backyard? Probably not... unless you live in Alaska. You probably know that friction in the earth's crust causes earthquakes, but did you know ... Continue reading

The image of the Bering Glacier were taken in October 1986 and September 2002 derived from the Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 satellites, respectively.

It's Dusty Out There

There is no lower limit to the size of the solid particles that move around the Sun. Small asteroids grade downward into large meteoroids and then into smaller pebbles and so on down to the tiniest ... Continue reading

A speck from a comet? Displayed in a close-up under an electron microscope, this tiny bit ofcosmic dust may be our first sample of a passing comet. Less than one-tenth of a millimeter across, the particle is composed of millions ofeven tinier crystals.

Blast Wave Blows Through the Solar System

Although the Sun provides the means for life on Earth, it has a dark side - the Sun regularly sends massive solar explosions of radiative plasma with the intensity of a billion megaton bombs hurtling ... Continue reading

The coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, leaving the Sun and traveling through the solar system.

Cosmos Provides Astronomers with Planet-Hunting Tool

If only astronomers had a giant magnifying glass in space, they might be able to uncover planets around other stars. Now they do -- sort of. Instead of magnifying a planet, astronomers used the ... Continue reading

This is an artist's rendering of the planet, believed to be one-and-a- half times larger than Jupiter, orbiting a red dwarf, its parent star. The distance between the star and planet is three times the distance between Earth and the Sun.

The Kuiper Belt

The Kuiper (pronounced Ki-Per) Belt is often called our solar system's 'final frontier.' This disk-shaped region of icy debris is about 12 to 15 billion kilometers (2.8 billion to 9.3 billion miles) ... Continue reading

This actual Hubble image of Quaoar is a sum of sixteen separate exposures made with Hubble's new Advanced Camera for Surveys.

GP-B: More Than Just a Pretty Face

Questions about the ways space, time, light and gravity relate to each other have been asked for eons. Theories have been offered, yet many puzzles remain to be solved. No spacecraft ever built has ... Continue reading

Among the biggest challenges for GP-B is keeping its Science Instrument Assembly constantly cooled to a temperature of 1.8 Kelvin, or minus 271.4 degrees Celsius (slightly above absolute zero), which will last 18 to 24 months.

A Map of the Sky

Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, Old Faithful... we know they're spectacular sites, but how did we find out about them? Early explorers took the time to map out the United States and as a result, you ... Continue reading


New Evidence Points to a Gamma-Ray Burst... In Our Own Backyard

Only 35,000 light years away lies W49B, the supernova remnant left over from the cataclysmic burst. New evidence pointing to a gamma ray burst origin for this remnant was discovered by X-ray data from ... Continue reading

A composite Chandra X-ray (blue) and Palomar infrared (red and green) image of the supernova remnant W49B.

The Sun, The Mighty Engine Of Our Solar System

Our Sun has inspired mythology in almost all cultures, including ancient Egyptians, Aztecs, Native Americans, and Chinese. We now know that the Sun is a huge, bright sphere of mostly ionized gas, ... Continue reading


Introduction To Jupiter

With its numerous moons and several rings, the Jupiter system is a 'mini-solar system.' Jupiter is the most massive planet in our solar system, and in composition it resembles a small star. In fact, ... Continue reading


NASA Hits a Hole-In-One

How are NASA and golf related? Ask the professional golfers using clubs made from NASA's space-age technology. NASA needed stronger, more durable materials for its space missions. A landmark discovery ... Continue reading

Experiments on how the Liquidmetal alloy performs in space have been tested onboard several Shuttle missions and the International Space Station.

Sputnik and The Dawn of the Space Age

History changed on October 4, 1957, when the Soviet Union successfully launched Sputnik I. The world's first artificial satellite was about the size of a basketball, weighed only 183 pounds, and took ... Continue reading


Large Asteroid Zooms Safely Past Earth

A mountain-sized asteroid made its closest approach to Earth at 9:35 a.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2004. Although asteroid 4179 Toutatis came no closer than four times the distance between ... Continue reading

An artist's concept of Toutatis.

Nursery of Giants Captured in New Spitzer Image

Typically, the bigger something is the easier it is to find. Elephants, for example, are not hard to spot. But when it comes to the massive stars making up the stellar nursery called DR21, size does ... Continue reading

Using infrared technology, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope reveals a stellar nursery called DR21.

Stars With Long Hair

Throughout history, people have been both awed and alarmed by comets, stars with 'long hair' that appeared in the sky unannounced and unpredictably. We now know that comets are dirty-ice leftovers ... Continue reading

Comet Borrelly as Seen By Deep Space 1

Pluto Is Way Out There

Long considered to be the smallest, coldest, and most distant planet from the Sun, Pluto may also be the largest of a group of objects that orbit in a disk-like zone of beyond the orbit of Neptune ... Continue reading

Pluto and Charon are tough to see even with the best telescopes.

Hubble & Keck Teams Find Farthest Known Galaxy in Universe

An international team of astronomers may have set a new record in discovering what is the most distant known galaxy in the universe. Located an estimated 13 billion light-years away, the object is ... Continue reading

This new galaxy was detected in a long exposure of the nearby cluster of galaxies Abell 2218, taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys on board the Hubble Space Telescope.

A Satellite Of Our Own

The regular daily and monthly rhythms of Earth's only natural satellite, the Moon, have guided timekeepers for thousands of years. Its influence on Earth's cycles, notably tides, has also been charted ... Continue reading


Dark Energy Changes the Universe

Dark energy has the cosmoslogists scratching their heads. Observations taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and future space telescopes will be needed in order to determine the properties of dark ... Continue reading

The diagram at right shows the changes in the rate of expansion since the universe's birth 15 billion years ago. The more shallow the curve, the faster the rate of expansion. The curve changes noticeably about 7.5 billion years ago, when objects in the universe began flying apart at a faster rate. Astronomers theorize that the faster expansion rate is due to a mysterious, dark force that is pulling galaxies apart.


The small and rocky planet Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun; it speeds around the Sun in a wildly elliptical (non-circular) orbit that takes it as close as 47 million km and as far as 70 ... Continue reading


NASA Spacecraft Reveals Surprising Anatomy Of A Comet

Findings from a historic encounter between NASA's Stardust spacecraft and a comet have revealed a much stranger world than previously believed. The comet's rigid surface, dotted with towering ... Continue reading

This image shows the comet Wild 2, which NASA's Stardust spacecraft flew by on Jan. 2, 2004.

Non-Flammable Fuel?

When we're flying high above the Earth, few of us give much thought to aircraft safety. We're usually too busy wondering when lunch is going to be served. But flying safely is a goal of NASA's Glenn ... Continue reading

The Air Separation Module (ASM). The 'safety kit' is composed of air separation modules about 4 feet long and 8 inches in diameter.

Space Lasers Keep Earth's Air Clean

Space laser technology is coming to our smokestacks and automobiles. Leave it to NASA to take its inventions to another level, helping to keep our air clean and breathable. A recent NASA invention, ... Continue reading

NASA wanted to operate carbon-dioxide lasers in Earth's orbit in order to research the chemical makeup of the planet's atmosphere but they had to be able to operate in the cold expanse of space.

Saturn: The Basics

To ancient astronomers, Saturn was a wandering light near the edge of the known universe. The planet and its rings have been objects of beauty and wonder ever since Galileo noticed the 'cup handles' ... Continue reading


Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer Solves Mystery of Pulsar 'Speed Limit'

Gravitational radiation, ripples in the fabric of space predicted by Albert Einstein, may serve as a cosmic traffic enforcer, protecting reckless pulsars from spinning too fast and blowing apart, ... Continue reading

A pulsar draws material from its companion star.

Will Runaway Water Warm the World?

Water in the upper atmosphere will make the Earth heat up, but not as much as many scientists have believed, says a new study published by NASA scientists. Using satellite data, researchers Ken ... Continue reading

 Instruments aboard UARS measure the concentration of gases in the atmosphere by looking through the Earth's 'limb.' This vantage point allows instruments to measure the atmosphere at different altitudes.

The Sun’s Corona

The White-Light Corona - The Corona is the Sun's outer atmosphere. It is visible during total eclipses of the Sun as a pearly white crown surrounding the Sun. The corona displays a variety of features ... Continue reading


Neptune: The Basics

The eighth planet from the Sun, Neptune was the first planet located through mathematical predictions rather than through regular observations of the sky. When Uranus didn't travel exactly as ... Continue reading


The Good, the Bad and the Ozone

Ozone is a big buzz word these days. We mostly hear about the ozone layer, and the importance of protecting it. But if you want to understand what ozone's all about, you need to understand that it can ... Continue reading

The second largest ozone hole ever observed is seen above Antarctica in this image from September 2003.

NASA's First Historic Challenge

In a time of uncertainty at home and abroad, an American president proposes bold new steps in the exploration of space. He calls for 'longer strides' which 'may hold the key to our future here on ... Continue reading

President Kennedy speaks to Congress on May 25, 1961.

Amazing GRACE

Gravity has an effect on everyone and everything on Earth. Although we can't see it, smell it, taste it or touch it, we know it's there. Although scientists already know quite a bit about this ... Continue reading

An uneven distribution of mass inside the Earth. The Earth's gravity field is not uniform - that is, it has 'lumps.' GRACE maps out the precise location and size of these lumps, enabling greater understanding of the structure of the Earth.