September 12th, 2013
02:50 PM ET

Voyager 1 becomes first human-made object to leave solar system

At the edge of the heliosphere, you wouldn't know by looking whether you left the cradle of humanity behind and floated out into interstellar space. You would just see unfathomably empty space, no matter which side of the invisible line you were on.

But scientists now have strong evidence that NASA's Voyager 1 probe has crossed this important border, making history as the first human-made object to leave the heliosphere, the magnetic boundary separating the solar system's sun, planets and solar wind from the rest of the galaxy.

"In leaving the heliosphere and setting sail on the cosmic seas between the stars, Voyager has joined other historic journeys of exploration: The first circumnavigation of the Earth, the first steps on the Moon," said Ed Stone, chief scientist on the Voyager mission. "That's the kind of event this is, as we leave behind our solar bubble."

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Up in the sky, look: It's Supermoon!
June 22nd, 2013
07:09 AM ET

Up in the sky, look: It's Supermoon!

The heavens will deliver a rare treat to moonstruck romantics and werewolves Sunday who rise before the sun.
A feat of lunar synchronicity will create a Supermoon.
This happens when the moon is full and at the same time reaches its perigee - the closest point to Earth in its orbit, according to NASA.
It makes for the biggest, brightest moon of the year.

Full story

Filed under: Earth • NASA • Nature • Science • Solar System • Space • U.S. • Uncategorized • Weather • World • World Update
Earth hit with largest solar radiation storm since 2003
This January 23 image, captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory, shows an M9-class solar flare erupting on the sun.
January 25th, 2012
12:10 AM ET

Earth hit with largest solar radiation storm since 2003

Material from a Sunday solar eruption hit the Earth on Tuesday, helping to create the planet's strongest solar radiation storm in more than eight years, NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center said.

The eruption also has caused a minor geomagnetic storm, expected to continue at least through Tuesday. Together, the storms could affect GPS systems, other satellite systems and radio communications near the poles, the SWPC and NASA said.

The storms prompted some airlines to divert planes from routes near the north pole, where radio communications may be affected and passengers at high altitudes may be at  "a higher than normal radiation risk," the SWPC said.

Hubble telescope shows 'Snow Angel'
December 15th, 2011
02:43 PM ET

Hubble telescope shows 'Snow Angel'

Far, far away in an isolated part of the Milky Way lies a star nursery housing a celestial spectacle so beautiful that the Space Telescope Science Institute has taken to calling it a “Holiday Snow Angel."

Spectacular images and video released by the NASA-built observatory Thursday show a star-forming region in the constellation Cygnus (the Swan) nearly 2,000 light years from Earth.

In official terms, Sharpless 2-106 (doesn’t have the same ring, does it?) gets its looks from an extreme confluence of heat and motion and features a ring of particles that “acts like a belt,” according to a press release. The hourglass-like shape in the middle is created by gaseous particles orbiting the star.

Don't be fooled by the cute name, Hubble spokesman Ray Villard told CNN Thursday in an email.

"Though we nickname this a ‘Snow Angel’ there is nothing angelic about what's happening in the picture," Villard said. "A super-hot star much larger than our sun has twin blowtorches of hot gas shooting out into space. The star is destined for a short life and will then explode as a supernova, disintegrating everything around it."


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Gotta Watch: How we got to the moon
Apollo 11's lunar module, the Eagle, ascends.
November 16th, 2011
11:06 AM ET

Gotta Watch: How we got to the moon

The first moon landing was one of the nation’s most historic must-see events. An estimated 600 million people around the world tuned in to see Apollo 11 touch down on the moon. Today, the astronauts who flew to the moon are making a rare joint appearance to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, along with former senator and astronaut John Glenn. You’ve no doubt seen the moon landing footage. Now go behind the scenes and learn more about what it took to get Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon.

Cutting edge – The computer on the lunar module had 36kb of memory—that’s less than a calculator holds now. Check out the giant technological leaps we’ve made since that historic trip.

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Filed under: Gotta Watch • NASA • Shuttle • Space
Electric plane wins $1.35 million prize
The Pipistrel USA Taurus G4, a four-seat, twin-fuselage aircraft, earned the $1.35 million first prize from NASA.
October 4th, 2011
07:38 AM ET

Electric plane wins $1.35 million prize

A Pennsylvania company has won a $1.35 million prize from NASA for developing a highly efficient airplane power by electricity. of State College earned the top prize in the CAFE Green Flight Challenge, sponsored by Google, NASA announced Monday.

The plane developed by Pipistrel doubled the fuel efficiency requirement for the competition - flying 200 miles in less than two hours while using less than a gallon of fuel per occupant or the equivalent in electricity. The winning plane used a little more than a half-gallon of fuel per passenger for the 200-mile flight.

Team was one of 14 entrants in the competition, which began two years ago. In total, the 14 teams invested $4 million in the competition, according to NASA.

"Two years ago the thought of flying 200 miles at 100 mph in an electric aircraft was pure science fiction," Jack W. Langelaan, team leader of Team, said in statement. "Now, we are all looking forward to the future of electric aviation."

Second place, and a $120,000 prize, went to Team eGenius of Ramona, California, whose leader, Eric Raymond, congratulated Team Pipistrel.


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Filed under: Aviation • NASA
Gotta Watch: Moving through time
Time-lapse photography shows traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
September 28th, 2011
11:02 AM ET

Gotta Watch: Moving through time

It's an artistic technique that allows you to fast-forward through time and it's absolutely fascinating to watch.  We're talking about time-lapse photography. This simple art of taking images every second over an extended period of time and then replaying the images in normal speed creates a feeling of moving through time.  Today's Gotta Watch features some of our favorite time-lapse videos, inspired by a video we posted Tuesday that shows an incredible view of the Northern Lights in Denmark. In case you missed it, the video is at the end of this post.

Around the earth in 1 minute - Take a trip around planet Earth thanks to time-lapse video of 600 stitched-together photos from NASA's astronaut photo database. It's certainly a view that puts maps to shame.


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Filed under: Arizona • Art • Denmark • Earth • Gotta Watch • NASA • New Jersey • Shuttle • Solar System • Space • U.S. • World
Gotta Watch: The sky is falling
NASA graphic of the UAR satellite
September 23rd, 2011
09:30 AM ET

Gotta Watch: The sky is falling

NASA has announced that it expects a defunct satellite to tumble to Earth today, but scientists can't say exactly when or where. That's got some people worried. This isn't the first time that space junk has fallen from the sky, though. Gotta Watch brings you some of our favorites.

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Filed under: Earth • Gotta Watch • NASA • Space
Astronauts return to earth
September 16th, 2011
10:02 AM ET

Russian craft brings 3 back from space station

Three crew members from the international space station came back to Earth on Friday, touching down in their Soyuz spacecraft in Kazakhstan.

Russian Andrey Borisenko, commander of Expedition 28, and flight engineers Alexander Samokutyaev, a Russian, and Ron Garan, an American, had spent 162 days working aboard the space station.

News reports said there were some worries in mission control when radio contact with the spacecraft was lost for several minutes after it left Earth's orbit, but the three men were fine when they exited the spacecraft.

"The crew endured the descent and landing normally. The men feel fine; they are in a good mood. The weather in the landing area in Kazakhstan is normal as well," an official spokesman for Rosaviation told the Pravda news agency.

Three airplanes, 14 helicopters and seven rescue vehicles monitored the landing on the Kazakhstan steppe, Pravda reported.

Before departing the space station Thursday, Garan sent a final tweet from space, including a picture of their destination - Earth.

The departure of the trio leaves three others aboard the space station, American Commander Mike Fossum and flight engineers Sergei Volkov of Russia and Satoshi Furukawa of Japan. They've been on the space station since June and are to remain until November 22. American Dan Burbank and Russia's Anatoly Ivanishin and Anton Shkaplerov are scheduled to join them on the space station on November 16.

Three more crew - NASA's Don Pettit, Russia's Oleg Kononenko and Europe's Andre Kuipers - are expected to head to the space station on or about December 26, according to NASA.

Since NASA put the last of its space shuttles into retirement during the summer, future missions will be carried out aboard Russian spacecraft.

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9/11 from space: Astronaut shares pictures and thoughts
Astronaut Frank Culbertson captured this image as the International Space Station orbited above New York on 9/11.
September 9th, 2011
11:21 AM ET

9/11 from space: Astronaut shares pictures and thoughts

When the towers of the World Trade Center fell on September 11, 2001, one American was not on the planet.

Astronaut Frank Culbertson had been aboard the International Space Station for a month when the 9/11 attacks occurred, joined only by two Russian cosmonaut crew mates. He could only monitor the events of the day from 300 miles above the Earth.

On Friday, NASA released letters Culbertson wrote and images he took as the space station passed over the New York City area after the 9/11 attacks.

Frank Culbertson

Culbertson wrote that he first heard of the attack via radio from a NASA flight surgeon.

"I was flabbergasted, then horrified. My first thought was that this wasn't a real conversation, that I was still listening to one of my Tom Clancy tapes," Culbertson wrote. "It just didn't seem possible on this scale in our country. I couldn't even imagine the particulars, even before the news of further destruction began coming in."

And he closed his letter on that first day:

"Other than the emotional impact of our country being attacked and thousands of our citizens and maybe some friends being killed, the most overwhelming feeling being where I am is one of isolation."


Filed under: NASA • September 11 • Space • Terrorism
Report: Astro trash poses increasing dangers to spacecraft, satellites
It seems prescient now that an artist in 1978 performed this rendering to highlight the danger of orbital debris.
September 2nd, 2011
09:43 AM ET

Report: Astro trash poses increasing dangers to spacecraft, satellites

It sounds like the theme of a 1980s video game, but the National Research Council say NASA should seriously consider ways to better tackle the problem of space debris.

In a 180-page report out this week, the council said NASA, partly because of slashed funding, is facing mounting pressure to find ways to lessen the dangers "posed by abandoned equipment, spent rocket bodies, and other debris orbiting the Earth." Oh, and meteoroids, too, an ex-NASA department head added.

Some models show that the amount of debris has reached a “tipping point,” meaning there is enough junk already in orbit that it could keep colliding, creating more debris and endangering spacecraft, satellites and the International Space Station.

The council said debris has already destroyed satellites, and the space station recently experienced a near miss. CNN reported another close call in March 2009.

Where is Bruce Willis when you need him?

Read the full post on CNN's Light Years blog
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On the Radar: Meteor shower, flash-mob curfew, custody death
The Perseid meteor shower in 2008.
August 12th, 2011
06:18 AM ET

On the Radar: Meteor shower, flash-mob curfew, custody death

Three things you need to know today.

Meteor shower: The Perseid meteor shower will peak for the year overnight, and NASA wants the viewing to be a shared online experience.

The space agency is hosting a live web chat beginning at 11 p.m. ET and lasting until 5 a.m. ET Saturday. Astronomers Bill Cooke, Danielle Moser and Rhiannon Blaauw from the Marshall Space Flight Center will lead the chat.

While you're chatting, a camera on the Marshall Center in Huntsville, Alabama, will stream pictures of the night sky in search of meteors. NASA says because of a full moon, about 20 to 30 meteors an hour will be visible. Best viewing will be in the northern hemisphere.

The Perseids come from dust and debris left behind the Swift-Tuttle comet. Every August, Earth passes through the comet's debris cloud, and the meteors visible are bits of that debris burning up in the atmosphere.

Flash mobs: Youths in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, face earlier curfews Friday and Saturday nights in response to recent flash-mob violence in the city.

Minors under the age of 18 must not be on streets in Philadelphia's City Center and University City districts after 9 p.m. In other areas of the city, the curfew remains 10 p.m. for those under 13 and midnight for those under 18.

Violators will be taken home or to police stations and face fines of $100 to $300, Philadelphia police say. Parents of violators will receive a warning for a first offense and could be fined up to $500 for a subsequent offense.

A "flash mob"  is a group of people who decide to gather at a given place after organizing via e-mail and social media. The city blames the flash mobs for several assaults by teens on residents in recent weeks. The beatings have left people badly injured.

Police custody death: In a growing controversy over the death of a homeless man during an arrest, a city council in Southern California will meet Friday to decide whether to hire a consultant to review its police department.

Kelly Thomas died last month after what the prosecutor called "a violent and desperate struggle" with police officers in Fullerton.

The Orange County District Attorney and the FBI are investigating the incident, with the latter looking at civil rights violations.

The death of Thomas, a schizophrenic, has led to temporary changes at the local police department.

Police Chief Michael Sellers took a paid medical leave this week amid a call for his resignation from at least one council member.

Six Fullerton police officers allegedly involved in the "in-custody death" of Thomas have been placed on paid administrative leave, city officials said

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Filed under: California • Crime • NASA • On the Radar • Pennsylvania • Space
Scientists: March 11 tsunami produced Antarctic icebergs
Top image shows the Sulzberger Ice Shelf on March 12 and the bottom on March 16 after the tsunami broke off icebergs.
August 9th, 2011
09:40 AM ET

Scientists: March 11 tsunami produced Antarctic icebergs

The tsunami spawned from the March 11 earthquake off eastern Japan broke up parts of an Antarctic ice shelf that hadn't moved in 46 years, scientists say.

Though the tsunami waves were only about a foot high when they reached Antarctica, their consistency was enough to crack the 260-foot-thick ice and split off icebergs with combined surface areas more than twice the size of Manhattan from the Sulzberger Ice Shelf, the scientists report in a NASA statement.

It was the first time scientists have been able to tie icebergs directly to a tsunami, according to NASA.

The tsunami waves traveled 8,000 miles and took 18 hours to reach the ice shelf, the scientists said, giving them time to validate theories on how an earthquake can affect geography a hemisphere away.

"In the past we've had calving events where we've looked for the source. It's a reverse scenario - we see a calving and we go looking for a source," Kelly Brunt, a cryosphere specialist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in the NASA statement. "We knew right away this was one of the biggest events in recent history - we knew there would be enough swell. And this time we had a source."


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Filed under: 2011 tsunami • Antarctica • Earthquake • Japan • NASA • Natural Disasters • Tsunami • World
NASA hopes to shuttle former employees into new jobs
NASA workers look on as space shuttle Atlantis is towed back to its hangar on July 21 at Florida's Kennedy Space Center.
July 26th, 2011
11:38 AM ET

NASA hopes to shuttle former employees into new jobs

NASA is holding a career fair in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Tuesday to help its former contract employees to find new jobs now that the shuttle program is ending.

Among those who will be rubbing elbows with government and private recruiters are some of the engineers NASA hired to maintain the shuttle's 20 different systems - "every part of the shuttle that required a team of engineers and technicians to get it ready for the next flight," said Lisa Malone, a NASA spokeswoman."

Over the years, NASA has been downsizing those teams, with Cape Canaveral seeing the most layoffs, including 1,500 on Friday, Malone said.

"I would say the lion's share of (the layoffs) has been in Florida," she said.

According to a fact sheet from NASA, the agency plans to lay off 2.223 Florida "shuttle prime contractors" in fiscal 2011, for a total of 4,371 layoffs in Florida since 2008. At the end of the year, NASA expects to have laid off 9,425 shuttle contractors nationwide since 2008.

In addition to engineers, NASA's  contract employees included accountants, human resources personnel, "everything it takes to run an organization," Malone said.

Workers have known about impending layoffs, in some respect, since President George W. Bush announced the end of the shuttle program, Malone said. She said NASA and the recruiters hope about 1,000 former employees will come to the career fair and apply for new jobs.

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Shuttle pictures southern lights
July 16th, 2011
11:46 AM ET

Shuttle pictures southern lights

A member of the space shuttle Atlantis crew snapped this spectacular image of the aurora australis, or southern lights.

The glowing phenomenon is caused by magnetic energy from the sun interacting with Earth's magnetic field, causing electrons to glow like a giant fluorescent light.

Part of the orbiter boom sensor system is visible; it was attached to the end of the shuttle's robotic arm. A part of the shuttle's left wing is at right.

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Atlantis docks on space station
Atlantis docked on the space station Sunday.
July 10th, 2011
12:58 PM ET

Atlantis docks on space station

Atlantis docked with the International Space Station Sunday morning as part of a historic mission marking the final flight of the U.S. shuttle program. Atlantis' four-member crew will deliver supplies and spare parts to the space station, and pick up a broken pump and transport it back to Earth for inspection, NASA said on its website.

The shuttle docked at 11:07 a.m. ET.

The four-member crew blasted off Friday at 11:29 a.m. on what was originally planned to be a 12-day mission, the last in the nation's 30-year shuttle program. NASA will likely try to extend the mission by one day, said Mike Gerstenmaier, the associate administrator.

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Flying 'blind' inside Mission Control
Ascent Flight Director Richard Jones, seated second from left, confers with his team Friday at Johnson Space Center in Houston.
July 9th, 2011
02:37 PM ET

Flying 'blind' inside Mission Control

Editor's note: Tracy Sabo is a senior producer at CNN. She was granted unusual access to watch Friday's space shuttle launch from inside Mission Control at Johnson Space Center in Houston. Here is her first-person account:

As space shuttle Atlantis was in final countdown on the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, I sat in Johnson Space Center's Mission Control in Houston watching the historic mission from a perspective rarely seen by non-NASA employees and contractors.

The feeling of "history in the making" was palpable as Richard Jones, the ascent flight director, stood pacing and scratching his head in the middle of the floor. Jones was poring over data on screens both big and small inside this intense scene at NASA Mission Control.

The weather was a major concern for the launch team as thunderstorms were consistently a "moderate threat." With the world watching this final shuttle mission, the pressure of an on-time launch must have been immense on the shoulders of this team.

However, officials constantly reminded us that "safety comes first" at NASA and the launch would be called off if everything didn't come together perfectly during a narrow window of opportunity. A decision likely would come down "to the final seconds," a spokesman said.

Listening to the flight director poll his Mission Control team in the final minutes sent chills down my spine. Despite the early weather threats, all systems were determined "Go for launch," and the official countdown clock began.


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Filed under: Atlantis • NASA • Shuttle • Space • Texas
NASA flight director relishes the moment, focuses on the mission
NASA Flight Director Richard Jones monitors the space shuttle Atlantis inside Mission Control the Johnson Space Center.
July 8th, 2011
06:41 PM ET

NASA flight director relishes the moment, focuses on the mission

After Friday's launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, CNN Correspondent Ed Lavandera talked with Flight Director Richard Jones inside NASA Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Jones is a 20-year veteran of the space shuttle program. Today, Jones made the call to give the go-ahead for the final launch of Atlantis.

CNN: What was it like being in there today?

Richard Jones: I was a bundle of nerves. I mean, we were working through the weather issue that most people probably already know about. The weather was on the verge of being absolutely pristine, but it just wasn't quite there. So, we were churning through that making sure it was all safe.

CNN: I know your number one priority was to get those astronauts off safely. But in the back of your mind, knowing the whole world was watching today, Did that sink in at any point?

Jones: It's sinking in right now as I'm talking to you. In this room you kind of learn to live in the bubble a little bit. So everything that we're doing, it just fades to the background. We know a lot of people are watching but it becomes background noise. So I wasn't focusing on anything except my job at the time.

CNN: Has it sunk that this was the last space shuttle launch?

Jones: Not yet. I mean, we've got a mission to fly. After, we'll stop when all the parties begin. It's going to start sinking in at that time. But we have to make sure the rest of the mission goes off without a hitch.


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Filed under: Atlantis • NASA • Shuttle
Final space shuttle mission lifts off
July 8th, 2011
11:51 AM ET

Final space shuttle mission lifts off

The space shuttle Atlantis lifted off Friday morning on the final mission of America's 30-year space-shuttle program.

The four-member crew blasted off on a 12-day mission just before 11:30 a.m. The four - all shuttle veterans - are on their way to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

The possibility of storms had raised doubt about whether the launch would take place as planned, but NASA gave the shuttle a "go" for launch a few minutes before liftoff.

Thousands of people, including some who came to Kennedy Space Center three decades ago for the first launch, were gathered to watch. Almost a million people were expected to be on hand to witness the historic event.

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NASA insider: Some truth to Gingrich's barb
NASA is "standing in the way" of new opportunities, Newt Gingrich said Monday at a debate among GOP presidential candidates.
June 14th, 2011
08:13 PM ET

NASA insider: Some truth to Gingrich's barb

After Newt Gingrich's harsh comments about NASA during Monday's night's debate between GOP presidential hopefuls, you'd guess the outrage from the nation's legendary space agency would be deafening.

So far today, all we've heard from Houston and Washington are crickets.

For those who missed it, Gingrich accused NASA's bureaucracy of wasting hundreds of billions of dollars that it's spent since the 1969 moon landing. Without such waste, he said, "we would probably today have a permanent station on the moon, three or four permanent stations in space, a new generation of lift vehicles."

NASA is "standing in the way" of a "new cycle of opportunities" when it "ought to be getting out of the way and encouraging the private sector," said the former House speaker.

The government agency that fulfilled President Kennedy's Cold War challenge to send a man to the moon within a decade chose not to comment. "It is inappropriate for us to comment on election rhetoric," said today's one-line statement from the communications office.

Why so quiet? Some NASA officials suspect Gingrich may be letting us know that the emperor has no clothes.


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Filed under: NASA • Newt Gingrich • Politics • Space