The Lunar Planner
Current Astronomical, Solar & Earth News

New Horizons Pluto and Charon by NASA

New Horizons Pluto & Charon by NASA July 2015

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.

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

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

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

March 1, 2013 Something unexpected is happening on the Sun

2013 is supposed to be the year of Solar Max, the peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle. Yet 2013 has arrived and solar activity is relatively low. Sunspot numbers are well below their values in 2011, and strong solar flares have been infrequent for many months....

Given the tepid state of solar activity in Feb. 2013, a maximum in May now seems unlikely.

"We may be seeing what happens when you predict a single amplitude and the Sun responds with a double peak," comments Pesnell." Solar News

Curiosity finds streambed  on Mars.

Streambed on Mars

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

Sept. 27, 2012: NASA's Curiosity rover mission has found evidence a stream once ran vigorously across the area on Mars where the rover is driving. There is earlier evidence for the presence of water on Mars, but this evidence -- images of rocks containing ancient streambed gravels -- is the first of its kind.


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.


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

NASA NEWS July 7, 2012 - Fifth Moon Discovered orbiting Pluto

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.

NASA's GRAIL mission to the Moon.

NASA's GRAIL mission launches to the moon this month.
Sept 16, 2011 post

JPL Video about NASA's GRAIL mission launches to the moon in September 2011, to arrive on December 31, 2011.

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.

NASA Spacecraft Enters Vesta's Orbit on July 15, 2011
July 14, 2011 post

DAWN - NASA Discovery Mission: Vesta & Ceres

On July 15, NASA's ion-propelled Dawn probe will become the first spacecraft to enter orbit around a main-belt asteroid. Dawn will orbit Vesta for one Earth-year, studying the giant space rock at close range to help scientists understand the earliest chapter of our solar system's history.

As Dawn approaches Vesta, surface details are coming into focus, as seen in a recent image taken from a distance of about 26,000 miles (41,000 kilometers)....

DAWN: THE YEAR OF VESTA ARIVES July 2011 - July 2012
April, 2011 post

An intimate exploration of the asteroid Vesta. 2011 will be the year when we gain a deeper understanding of Vesta--asteroid of focus, dedication and commitment--thanks to NASA's DAWN. This will bring a signifcant astrological emphasis to Vesta, and her role in our lives. DAWN will enter orbit around Vesta in late July 2011 bringing us breathtaking images of Vesta.

More about Dawn and 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 2010 - Aug 2012 - A golden age of planetary exploration. To mark an unprecedented flurry of exploration which is about to begin, NASA announced that the coming year (2011) will be "The Year of the Solar System" (YSS).

"During YSS, we'll see triple the [usual] number of launches, flybys and orbital insertions," says Jim Green, Director of Planetary Science at NASA headquarters. "There hasn't been anything quite like it in the history of the Space Age. Naturally, it's a Martian year....

Full Story:

Lunar Planner Solar Cycles, Sunspots, Solar Flares & Solar News

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:

Astronomical & Earth News Archive

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

Water found on the Moon - The argument that the Moon is a dry, desolate place no longer holds water. At a press conference today, researchers revealed data from NASA's LCROSS mission indicating that water exists in a permanently shadowed lunar crater. Full Story: Water found on the Moon

Mercury by NASA's Messenger spacecraft

Mercury by NASA's Messenger spacecraft. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

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

Coming to a Planetarium Near You
In search of our Cosmic Origins
The ALMA Planetarium Show

ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array is arguably the largest astronomical project in existence. It is currently being built by partners from Europe (ESO), North America (under the leadership of NRAO), and East Asia (NAOJ), on the 5,000 metre high plateau of Chajnantor in the arid Chilean Atacama Desert. ALMA HOME PAGE

ALMA In search of our Cosmic Origins

- a worldwide collaboration-

"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

NASA Messenger Mercury

NASA's "Messenger" (the first spacecraft to orbit Mercury) provides new Information about Mercury.

Mercury Color Closeup
Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington