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KQED Public Media for Northern CA

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    In 1972, an Apollo 17 astronaut glimpsed a strange phenomenon of streaming light from the window of the command module as it orbited the dark side of the moon. Now, a new NASA mission aims to discover what caused that phenomenon, and whether it could be a hazard for future lunar landings.

    Coronal and zodiacal light taken with the Clementine spacecraft, when the sun was behind the moon. The bright dot at the top is the planet Venus. Credit: NASAArtist's conception of NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft in orbit above the moon as dust scatters light during the lunar sunset. Image credit: NASA Ames / Dana BerryEugene Cernan's 1972 sketch, showing the mysterious Coronal and zodiacal light taken with the Clementine spacecraft, when the sun was behind the moon. The bright dot at the top is the planet Venus. Credit: NASAArtist's conception of NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft in orbit above the moon as dust scatters light during the lunar sunset. Image credit: NASA Ames / Dana BerryEugene Cernan's 1972 sketch, showing the mysterious "streamers" (in green) on the lunar surface. Credit: NASAApollo_11_first_stepAn artist's concept of NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft seen orbiting near the surface of the moon. Image credit: NASA Ames / Dana Berry

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    A comet named ISON has been hailed as a possible "comet of the century." But scientists aren't sure yet if it will survive a hairpin turn around the sun.

    Hubble Space Telescope Image of Comet ISON, April 2013Hubble Space Telescope Image of Comet ISONHubble Space Telescope Image of Comet ISON, April 2013Hubble Space Telescope Image of Comet ISON

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    The moon often seems like an ancient relic of space exploration, that dusty, dry, airless ball of rock and soil that we visited decades ago and have since left alone—possibly because we found nothing there but dust, rock, and soil? Not so fast. Exploration in the past few years has revealed aspects of the moon that contradict what we were taught in school.

    Bullialdus Crater, photo by Conrad Jung, Chabot Space & Science CenterBullialdus CraterBullialdus Crater, photo by Conrad Jung, Chabot Space & Science CenterBullialdus Crater

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    NASA's Curiosity rover on Mars has raised some eyebrows by something it has not detected: methane. And, much farther out, the Cassini spacecraft has made a positive detection of plastic in the atmosphere of Saturn's moon Titan.

    NASA's rover Curiosity in Gale Crater on MarsCuriosity sniffing for cluesNASA's rover Curiosity in Gale Crater on MarsCuriosity sniffing for clues

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    NASA's "Engineer with a Mohawk" has become a pop culture phenom (62,000 Twitter followers isn't too shabby). But under that comb beats the heart of a true explorer, as we found when he dropped by for a visit.

    marsrovermarsrover

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    Maybe a week before it passes closest to the sun, the dark side of Comet ISON is expected to begin turning into the sunlight. The sudden exposure to the intense radiation could cause a strong outburst of gases into the coma--like a celestial popcorn kernel suddenly bursting.

    Comet ISON - Sept 8 2013 - Chabot Space & Science Center, Photo by Conrad JungComet ISON – Sept 8 2013 – Chabot Space & Science Center, Photo by Conrad JungComet ISON - Sept 8 2013 - Chabot Space & Science Center, Photo by Conrad JungComet ISON – Sept 8 2013 – Chabot Space & Science Center, Photo by Conrad Jung

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    The Chelyabinsk meteor was a 65-foot hunk of space rock that entered the Earth's atmosphere at about 12 miles per second before exploding with a force equal to 600,000 tons of TNT, enough to level buildings and send 1,200 people to local hospitals.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/54526467@N00/8475569087/in/photolist-dUXvpv-fJ4Ncc-fuunUL-dXaqJY-dXaqHLEmbedly PoweredEmbedly Poweredhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/54526467@N00/8475569087/in/photolist-dUXvpv-fJ4Ncc-fuunUL-dXaqJY-dXaqHLEmbedly PoweredEmbedly Powered

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    NASA's newest Mars probe, MAVEN is now shooting through the solar system. A mere 440 million miles stand between the robotic explorer and its final destination: the Martian atmosphere.

    A full moon rises behind MAVEN on the eve of its launch for Mars. (NASA)A full moon rises behind MAVEN on the eve of its launch for Mars. (NASA)

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  • 11/18/13--14:35: Silicon Valley Goes to Space
  • Commercial space ventures are taking off and opening up space like never before. With its culture of risk and game-changing startups, Silicon Valley is playing a starring role in many of these new space companies. But risks and costs emerge with the increasing privatization of space.

    Engineer Travis O'Neal (in blue) oversees interns setting up Masten's Xaero-B rocket for a tethered flight test. Image by Jayme Roy.703_KQEDSci_Space_JRoy_GShotwell_19563123703_KQEDSci_Space_JRoy_Masten_14044207703_KQEDSci_Space_BMcHugh_Skybox_07343803_2Engineer Travis O'Neal (in blue) oversees interns setting up Masten's Xaero-B rocket for a tethered flight test. Image by Jayme Roy.703_KQEDSci_Space_JRoy_GShotwell_19563123703_KQEDSci_Space_JRoy_Masten_14044207703_KQEDSci_Space_BMcHugh_Skybox_07343803_2

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    If you had to make a choice to shut down either the Mars rover Curiosity or that explorer of the Saturn system Cassini, would you deliver a pink slip to the young, eager, energetic newbie or force an early retirement on a veteran explorer who has delivered volumes of knowledge?

    Curiosity Versus CassiniCuriosity Versus CassiniCuriosity Versus CassiniCuriosity Versus Cassini

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    In San Francisco this week, NASA scientists presented rare video footage of the Earth and moon, plus a first for citizen space science.

    NASA's Juno spacecraft is expected to reach Jupiter, our solar system's largest planet, in July 2016. (NASA)329218main_juno200904_SCALENASA's Juno spacecraft is expected to reach Jupiter, our solar system's largest planet, in July 2016. (NASA)329218main_juno200904_SCALE

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    If there’s life swimming around in Europa's ice-covered oceans, the geysers are most certainly spewing it into the atmosphere, where future NASA missions might be able to grab and study it.

    Jupiter's moon Europa has an icy surface covering vast oceans. (NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk)artistsconcept_13-371pia17657-fullJupiter's moon Europa has an icy surface covering vast oceans. (NASA/JPL/Ted Stryk)artistsconcept_13-371pia17657-full

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    Let's take a moment to tally a few of 2013's highlights of astronomy and space exploration. In brief, it was a very good year on a number of fronts.

    Voyager 1 enters interstellar space. Credit: NASAVoyager 1 enters interstellar space. Credit: NASAVoyager 1 enters interstellar space. Credit: NASAVoyager 1 enters interstellar space. Credit: NASA

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    A tag-team of all-star research aircraft, including a robot, set out next week on a quest to explore a great atmospheric engine in the West Pacific with a powerful influence on global climate.

    BAe-146; photo courtesy FAAMHIAPER; photo courtesy Carlye Calvin, UCARGlobal Hawk; NASA photo by C. FratelloCONTRAST campaignBAe-146; photo courtesy FAAMHIAPER; photo courtesy Carlye Calvin, UCARGlobal Hawk; NASA photo by C. FratelloCONTRAST campaign

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    The planet Jupiter is once again a source of surprise and wonder to many who gaze up at the night sky.

    Illustration of Jupiter from the surface of Europa. NASA/JPLIllustration of Jupiter from the surface of Europa. NASA/JPL

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    On Monday, far beyond the orbit of Mars, an alarm clock went off and a robot began the slow process of waking up after a long, cold sleep. The European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft is now approaching the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, which it will catch up with this May.

    The ESA's Rosetta SpacecraftThe ESA's Rosetta Spacecraft

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    The NASA spacecraft is designed to answer a 42-year-old mystery about lunar dust, but it's also snapping photos along the way.

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    Recent observations of the dwarf planet Ceres by the European Herschel Space Observatory have revealed for the first time the presence of water vapor on this object in the Main Asteroid Belt.

    Hubble Space Telescope image of Dwarf Planet Ceres. Credit: NASA/Hubble Space TelescopeHubble Space Telescope image of Dwarf Planet Ceres. Credit: NASA/Hubble Space Telescope

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    NASA researchers announce they've verified 715 new planets orbiting around 305 stars.

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    Investigation of an ancient Martian meteorite has re-fueled a debate about evidence of possible past life on Mars.

    Micro-tunnel features in the Y000593 Martian meteorite. (NASA/JPL)Micro-tunnel features in the Y000593 Martian meteorite. (NASA/JPL)

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