Outer Space

Mysteries of Space : Best Column
Plants soaked up our atmosphere's excess carbon dioxide hundreds of millions of years ago, allowing other forms of life to flourish, says Mark Fischetti at Scientific American.

Why we'll never find another planet like Earth

It doesn't matter how hard NASA looks, says Mark Fischetti at Scientific American. Until it identifies another planet with plants, Earth remains stubbornly unique

Mysteries of Space : Best Video
The Northern Lights dazzled the world last week, thanks to the biggest solar storm since 2005.

A massive solar storm's 'spectacular' aurora borealis 

When the sun spits out solar flares, they can disrupt electronics, interrupt air travel — and dazzle stargazers with "astounding" Northern Lights

NASA : Photos
NASA's new "Blue Marble" image is a digital composite of several photos taken by a satellite as it zoomed around the Earth four times on January 4.

NASA's 'impossibly beautiful' photo of Earth

The space agency releases an ultra high-def update to its iconic photo set. Feast your eyes

Mysteries of Space : Instant Guide
Solar Dynamics Observatory captures a massive solar flare, shown here in teal, exploding off the face of our sun 93 million miles away.

The 'strongest solar storm since 2005': A guide

A massive eruption from the sun's surface has Earth primed for a close encounter with a powerful solar flare

Mysteries of Space : Fact Sheet
An illustration of a black hole: The super-dense light gobblers are invisible, and have thus never been photographed.

The groundbreaking plan to photograph a black hole

Scientists want to build an enormous "virtual telescope" capable of taking a picture of a massive black hole 26,000 light years away

Mysteries of Space : Instant Guide
A team of experts is using NASA's Kepler space telescope to hunt for a real-world equivalent of the fictional, life-bearing moon Pandora in the film "Avatar."

The hunt for a real-life Avatar: Will we find life on another planet's moons?

The Hunt for Exomoons with Kepler program will extend the space telescope's planet-hunting capabilities and begin the search for a hospitable Pandora

Mysteries of Space : Timeline
A spiral galaxy: While 2011 brought new discoveries from ever newer telescopes, it was the reliable Hubble telescope that discovered the oldest star system on record.

2011's top mysteries of space

Between a giant planet made of diamond and a massive stellar explosion that shone with the light of a trillion suns, this was quite a year for stargazers

NASA : Analysis
A six-foot prototype crossbow: NASA scientists are working with a test harpoon to zero in on the best way to snag a comet.

NASA’s comet-snagging space harpoon 

How do you collect mineral samples from flying asteroids you can't land on? Scientists may have a solution

Mysteries of Space : Opinion Brief
The bright spot just below Mercury has some conspiracy theorists convinced that there's a giant alien spacecraft hanging out in our solar system.

Did NASA spot an alien spaceship near Mercury?

A massive flying object flashes near the planet and then vanishes — sending UFO enthusiasts into a frenzy

Mysteries of Space : Analysis
An artist's conception of Kepler-22b, a planet 600 light years away from Earth, and the first confirmed planet outside our solar system that could conceivably harbor life as we know it.

Discovered: The first habitable 'Earth-like' planet

NASA's Kepler telescope makes a startling, exciting find: An alien world eerily similar to our own, right down to the pleasant summer temperature

Mysteries of Space : Burning Question
A magnified image of two adult C. elegan, the type of microscopic worms sent into space to help better understand how organisms deal with long outerspace trips.

Space worms: The key to human survival on Mars? 

A normally Earthbound wriggler could become the interstellar version of a canary in a coal mine

Mysteries of Space : Best Video
Perfect game? Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa hits the baseball he threw to himself while aboard the International Space Station.

The astronaut who played baseball all by himself

No team? No sweat — at least for spaceman Satoshi Furukawa, who pitches, bats, fields, and floats all by his lonesome

Mysteries of Space : Best Column
The universe is too vast and our technology too limited to successfully locate intelligent life on other planets, says Chris Wilson at Slate.

Why can't we find aliens?

Sure, we haven't successfully phoned E.T. yet, says Slate's Chris Wilson. But let's not give up too easily

NASA : By the numbers
Artist's rendering of NASA's Curiosity rover, which is expected to land on Mars in August 2012.

The Curiosity rover's 'long cruise to Mars': By the numbers

NASA's massive new mobile space lab is set to touch down on the Red Planet next August — in a mission to find evidence of alien life

NASA : The List
This job isn't easy to get: To even be considered, astronaut applicants need 1,000 hours of experience piloting a jet, must be in peak physical condition, and can't be too short, or too tall.

NASA's 'highly competitive' astronaut job application

Do you have the right stuff? There's only one way to find out...

Mysteries of Space : Instant Guide
Solar flares are powerful, but they could not travel the 93 million miles to destroy Earth. At least, that's what NASA says.

Can a 'killer' solar flare really destroy Earth?

A few 2012 doomsayers think the sun will fry our planet to a crisp

Subscribe to the Week