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From Moon to Mars: NASA's Ambitious Artemis Mission Set to Propel Human Exploration

by Will DeFour, age 13

Over 50 years ago, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. Now, half a century later, another explorer will leave Earth's orbit and take another adventure, our first encounter with our closest friend, Mars. NASA plans to use the Artemis mission to return to the moon and reach Mars, some 140 million miles away, for the first time. To get there safely, first, it plans to use the moon to test new life support and spacecraft for the Mars mission.

Artemis II is a mission designed to orbit the moon, and then return. However, nobody is stepping on the moon again until the next mission, Artemis III. Those will be the first woman and first person of color to walk on the moon. Artemis II is going to be the first flight of Orion, the spacecraft designed to get astronauts to Mars. But how does a single spacecraft go that far? The answer is the Gateway.

The Gateway will be a manned station that orbits the moon. It has multiple purposes, such as refueling spacecraft, testing equipment, and researching how zero gravity affects people over long periods. The Habitation and Logistics Outpost also referred to as HALO, not only is a living quarters, but also a laboratory, which enables them to conduct experiments without returning to Earth. [Read More]

Future Exploration of Enceladus Could Use Snake-Like Robot

by Ayelen Flores Ruiz, age 14

The idea of living somewhere other than Earth is fascinating for the future. Traces of chemicals needed for life have been detected from Enceladus, a moon of Saturn. Scientists are trying to find possible ways to explore Enceladus.

Saturn is a well-known planet for its dozens of moons, and Enceladus happens to be one of the many. Since Saturn is the sixth planet away from the sun, the temperatures there are very low. Enceladus has a frozen crust and huge water plumes, essential for sustaining life on the moon. Additionally, it contains phosphorus and hydrogen cyanide, which are needed for life.

Exploring Enceladus is currently an idea NASA has evolved, but it will only happen for a while. They created the Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor, also known as EELS, which will someday be used to research Enceladus. EELS is a robot that has the features of a snake. The robot is four meters long and can move vertically inside crevasses. It can vertically move due to the cylindrical segments that can be angled and rotated. This movement can crawl into Enceladus' fEnceladus't and provide further information about alien life. [Read More]

Stargazers in North America Get Ready for Eventful 2024

by Camila Cruz, age 16

Stargazers in North America should start getting ready because they will have much to watch for in 2024. People are excitedly waiting for two comets, 12 meteor showers, two lunar eclipses, an asteroid, and most excitingly a solar eclipse over parts of the U.S.

Comets are beautiful and become easier to see as they approach Earth. Comets are snowballs of frozen gasses, dust, and rocks. As they travel through our solar system, they leave an icy dust trail. If the comet is close enough to the sun, it creates a mesmerizing, sparkling show. Comets are seen when they link up with Earth’s rotation around the sun. One of the best-known is Halley’s Comet, which was the first comet to be photographed. Halley’s Comet was photographed by multiple spacecraft in 1986. Comets are mainly named by the person or spacecraft who discovered them. Halley’s Comet is named after Edmind Halley, an astronomer.

Comets are also responsible for meteor showers when the debris of the comet's trail hits the atmosphere gets warmed up and shows bright streaks. If it’s a full moon you won’t be able to see meteors as well due to the moonlight. [Read More]

NASA's Osiris-REx Returns with Asteroid Samples to Avert Future Earth Collisions

by Valeria Moreno Lopez, age 17

A NASA spacecraft unleashed its sample findings that could help prevent a collision on Earth. After a seven-year expedition of observing the asteroid Bennu, a sample container landed in a Utah desert this past September. The sample is predicted to contain 250 grams of high-carbon dust and rocks from the asteroid.

In 2016, Osiris-REx, NASA’s third deep-space robotic mission, departed into space, costing over $1 billion. After two years of searching, the spacecraft landed on Bennu to gather material that has been dated back to 4.5 million years ago. Researchers will use this new data to improve the understanding of planet and life formation. To acquire the material, Osiris-REx inserted a stick vacuum connected to a container into the asteroid. However, much more dust and rocks were gathered than expected. This damaged the spacecraft’s container and lost a significant quantity of material. More than 100 grams were collected from extra material that was stuck on the outside of the container, bypassing the original goal of 60 grams.

From more than 500,000 asteroids that orbit our solar system, Bennu was chosen for the mission because of its elements. Its length is equal to one-third of a mile and it weighs nearly 172 billion pounds. The asteroid is 50 million miles away from Earth, but scientists found a concerning possibility that Bennu could hit Earth by 2182. They hope to use the sample data to prevent pocket collisions on our planet. One way is to change the trajectory using kinetic impactors. Dante Lauretta, the mission’s leader from the University of Arizona, said, “With each revelation from Bennu, we draw closer to unraveling the mysteries of our cosmic heritage.” [Read More]

Revolutionizing Space Communication Through Lasers

by Allison Torres, age 15

Lasers represent the future of communication. Currently, the International Space Station relies on 5G and broadband internet for its Earth communication. However, this mode of communication involves a delay of approximately 2.5 seconds for information transmission.

Unlike radio waves, lasers constitute invisible light with greater robustness. Their wavelengths are also 10,000 times shorter than those of radio waves. Consequently, lasers require a mere 0.0003 megabits per second to traverse from one point to another. Introducing lasers into the orbit within our solar system stands to significantly enhance the speed of data transmission via satellites.

The application of lasers extends beyond space-related endeavors. We currently employ lasers in various technologies, including 3D scanners, laser surgery for cancer treatment, barcode scanners, and information processing in DVDs, and Blu-rays. [Read More]

Two Black Holes Orbiting Each Other Were Discovered in Cosmic Light Show by Astronomers

by Allison Torres, age 14

Scientists have made a remarkable discovery - a previously hidden black hole has emerged from obscurity. This colossal black hole is accompanied by a smaller partner that had remained undetected until now. Astronomers have recently confirmed the emission of light from this smaller black hole. When these two black holes orbit each other, they generate bursts of light, known as a blazar, which emits intense radiation into space, specifically in the OJ287 region.

Mauri Valtonen, who reported this discovery during a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in New Mexico on June 7, emphasized the extraordinary nature of this find, stating, "We've never seen anything like this before."

Predictions made in early 2022 anticipated the most recent flare's appearance. Since that forecast, astronomers have diligently monitored OJ287 using both Earth-based and space telescopes to gain a clearer perspective. [Read More]

Investigating the Mysterious Snow on Saturn's Moon

by Amelia Pearson, age 13

The snow on Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, can bury almost any skyscraper on Earth. Scientists would like to find out why.

The snow’s depth on Enceladus shows that its water vapor could have been more active in the past. Geysers on the moon allow for water from a salty ocean under an icy shell to rise to the surface of Enceladus. Some of this water contributes to forming one of Saturn’s rings. According to the researchers, the rest of this water seems to land back on the ground in the form of snow. Scientists believe that if they could fully understand the snow's properties, it could help uncover Enceladus’ history.

For scientists to fully understand the properties of the snow on Enceladus, they looked into Iceland. In Iceland, there are marks in the ground made from loose rocks, ice, or snow called pit chains. Scientists discovered they are very similar to features on Enceladus. [Read More]

A Star is Born: The Life Cycle of Stars

by Valeria Moreno Lopez, age 16

Every single birth of a star in the sky begins in an immense cloud of gas, dust, and debris. These colorful clouds are called nebulae, cosmic wonders that swirl around space undisturbed for millions of years.

In the beginning stages of a star’s formation, many occurrences in space can cause a nebula to warp and change its structure. As a result, it will collapse on its own gravity, shrink, and spin faster until it leaves a hot and bright core called a protostar. After the young star is formed, it cannot be seen immediately due to debris surrounding it. Thousands of years later, the star will be able to gather enough heat to engulf anything around it. Finally, when temperatures reach about 27 million degrees, the atoms at the core stick together to emit huge amounts of energy. Thus, lighting the star.

Often, stars are categorized by their mass: lightweight, middleweight, or heavyweight. [Read More]

Asteroid to Approach Earth in 2029

by Lah’Nylah Bivens, age 15

In the year 2029 there will be an asteroid named 99942 Apophis that will approach Earth for the first time. However, after years of calculation and observation scientists have stated that it will not make an impact on the planet.

On Friday, April 13, 2029, Apophis will closely pass Earth. This asteroid is record-breaking size for an asteroid passing the Earth. Scientists know that asteroids orbit in elliptical paths around the sun; this has allowed them to observe Apophis since 2004. Astronomers have found approximately 30,000 objects that could possibly pass Earth. Scientists and astronomers have used the Torino Scale since 1995, the torino scale uses a color-coded warning system that measures the degree of danger an asteroid or comet will have when passing Earth in the next 100 years. The scale can range from zero to ten. Apophis is a four on this scale.

Apophis stunned scientists after they found that it had a three percent chance of hitting Earth, which is higher than normal. Scientists are monitoring the asteroid’s every move using radar observations and they were able to confirm that Apophis will pass 19,000 miles above Earth's surface in 2029 but will not strike. [Read More]

Mars Rover Microphone Captures Sound from the Red Planet

by Sedona Afeworki, age 14

On September 27, 2021, a NASA rover detected a rumbling sound and forceful winds on Mars, later discovering that it was a dust devil.

A dust devil is a small vortex that swirls dust, debris and sand to great heights. The whirlwind on Mars was around 400 feet tall and about 80 feet wide, going fast at 16 feet per second. Its rumbling gusts went 25 miles per hour for around 10 seconds.

The sound of the dust devil on Mars is quite similar to how it sounds on Earth. However, the sounds are more quiet due to Mars’ thin atmosphere, which also makes the winds sound weaker. Last year, a dust devil went right over the range rover Perseverance currently on Mars. Scientist German Martinez, a co-author at the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston stated, “it was fully caught red-handed by Persy.” [Read More]

Webb Space Telescope Sends New Images to Scientists on Planet Earth

by Lah’Nylah Bivens, age 15

The James Space Webb Telescope launched on December 25th, 2021. It is the newest and most powerful space telescope. It has been sending images and data to scientists on Earth since early summer 2022.

This telescope helps scientists study information and data from our universe's earliest galaxies and stars. NASA scientists have been discussing the image they received of the Southern Ring planetary nebula. The image depicts a gas that surrounds a dying star. Researchers found the image fascinating, particularly since this is what our own sun could look like in five billion years. They also report that the star is pushing out its outer layers which include oxygen and carbon that could help feed other space objects. This happens when a star is dying and a new star is coming to life.

This telescope sits 1.5 million kilometers from Earth and has allowed us to see the most distant galaxies we have ever observed. The Webb telescope has made many other discoveries. It has photographed a large variety of early galaxies that are estimated to date up to 280 million years after the Big Bang. It also discovered a younger area named NGC 3324 which shows “cosmic cliffs” and stars being created. NGC 3324 is about 8,500 light years away from Earth. This telescope has also found a massive gas exoplanet named WASP-96b. The telescope data allows scientists to analyze and investigate what seems to be water in its atmosphere. [Read More]

First Plant Successfully Sprouts in Lunar Soil

by Daniel Li, age 15

The first seeds to ever sprout in lunar soil poked their heads above moon dirt at the University of Florida in May. Decades of research and experimentation led to this breakthrough which marks the first time terrestrial plants have grown in extra-terrestial soil. It also offers hope that astronauts will one day be able to grow food on the moon.

Three scientists from the University of Florida filled 12 pots of soil from the space expeditions Apollo 11, 12, and 17; 4 pots for each trip’s sample. They chose to use thale cress, a small flowering weed, due to its ability to grow in small amounts of dirt, which was important because NASA was frugal when providing the samples. Sixteen additional pots were filled with volcanic material from Earth, which is often used to mimic lunar soil. These pots were treated with the same nutrients and light levels to ensure unbiased results. Aside from these pots, there was also a control group of plants grown in soil samples from Earth.

The seeds did sprout, but compared to the control group, seedlings were not nearly as successful. The healthiest plants were smaller than they should have been, while the weakest were smaller still and had a sickly purple tint, a sign of plant stress. This is most likely due to the sharpness of the soil, caused by high amounts of metallic iron (compared to the oxidized iron in the Earth’s soil), and glass shards formed by lunar surface collisions. The soil also lacked many nutrients that plants require to grow such as phosphorus, nitrogen, and potassium. [Read More]

There’s a Chance the Black Hole at the Center of Our Galaxy Is Actually a Wormhole

by Allison Torres, age 14

Writers that love science fiction like the idea of wormholes. Go in a wormhole, and it might transfer you to another place in time.

Physicists have taken the time to study and talk about what it might actually look like inside a black hole. There could be a wormhole in the middle of our galaxy. One way scientists are able to confirm that wormholes exist would be to go through a black hole and see if there is a hidden bridge. Although, this would be a rare occurrence, since the Milky Way is more of a door than a dead end. They could also probably figure out if there is any presence of existing life on the other side.

Researchers have found that orbits of stars, such as S2, have been orbiting a giant black hole for years. Scientists say that if this star or other stars feel existence on the other side of a black hole then the star would perform a peculiar dance. It could begin to move and jump in unusual ways that signify a possible wormhole. Astronomers are planning to measure the orbit of the star S2 so they can narrow it down. [Read More]

Webb Space Telescope Sends New Images to Scientists on Planet Earth

by Ashley Mercado, age 13

NASA has finally revealed the first set of beautiful images taken from a new space telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope. The first picture from the Space Telescope was a plethora of distant galaxies that go deeper than scientists have ever seen. NASA says the new Webb Telescope will eventually replace the Hubble Telescope. Some of Webb’s images show areas of the universe Hubble has already studied, and some show areas Hubble could not reach.

Webb used infrared light which allowed scientists to obtain a clearer images and show places they have not yet studied. NASA administrator Bill Nelson said, “Every image is a new discovery and each will give humanity a view of the universe that we’ve never seen before.” In the new images, astronomers are looking for two nebulae: the Southern Ring Nebula and the Carina Nebula. They are also looking for five galaxies, known as Stephan’s Quintet, as well as the recently discovered gas planet called WASP-96b.

The strong telescope launched last December from French Guiana in South America and reached its final destination one million miles away in January. The telescope contains many requirements that must be met it in order to take pictures. For example, the telescope uses mirrors to focus its view on spots in space, so these mirrors have to be precisely aligned to function. [Read More]

Exploring Galaxies: Shapes, Sizes, and Cosmic Mysteries

by Aloniab Gezae, age 10

All galaxies are made up of stars, gases, and dust. There are billions of galaxies across space, including the one Earth is in: the Milky Way.

There are so many galaxies that scientists cannot keep track of all of them; however, it is known that they all have solar systems. A solar system is just a speck of the whole galaxy. The Milky Way’s solar system has eight planets.

There are various types of galaxies, such as spiral, elliptical, and irregular galaxies. Spiral galaxies look similar to pinwheels. Sixty percent of the closest galaxies to the Milky Way are spiral galaxies. Also, they are often the brightest in the universe. [Read More]

Tracking Asteroid Apophis's Near Miss and Future Trajectory

by Iliyan Hoskins, age 11

When the asteroid Apophis was discovered in 2004, it was considered dangerous for Earth. At the time, scientists tracked its orbit and predicted that the asteroid had a slim chance of hitting Earth in 2029.

Apophis was discovered by astronomers David Theolen, Roy Tucker, and Fabrizio Bernardi at the Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson, Arizona. After further analysis, the prediction of Apophis hitting Earth in 2029 was ruled out. However, collision is still a concern as astronomers predict a small chance of impact on Earth in 2068.

On April 13, 2029, Apophis will pass less than 20,000 miles from our planet’s surface and will be the closest approach of an asteroid to Earth. Currently, there’s a spacecraft equipped with cameras named OSIRIS-REx. It’s currently on a mission to study a different asteroid Bennu, but it might be possible that by 2029, the spacecraft could observe Apophis. When Apophis gets close to Earth, OSIRIS-PEx’s cameras could take pictures of the asteroid up close and observe it. [Read More]

Three New Missions Planned to Explore Venus

by Chelsea Zheng, age 11

Venus is considered Earth’s twin due to its similar size and density. However both these planets have developed vastly different from one another. Earth was able to develop and sustain life, while Venus became a scorching and toxic planet. To further understand how Earth’s neighboring “twin” developed a harsh environment, scientists launched spacecraft to study Venus and continue to launch more in the future.

In our solar system, Venus is our closest planetary neighbor. It’s the color of rust and is covered with forcefully bunched mountains. It is also the second planet from our sun, Venus is one of the four rocky planets. It has an atmosphere full of toxic fumes such as carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid. The fumes create an extreme greenhouse effect that traps a lot of heat.

The surface temperatures on Venus can melt various metals, reaching 900 degrees Fahrenheit. Even though Mercury is the closest planet to our sun, its heat can’t compare to Venus – it is the hottest planet in the solar system. Despite having similar size, density, mass, and gravitational pull to Earth, it is more than evident that they are nothing alike. [Read More]

NASA Launching Unmanned Craft to Explore Metal Asteroid

by Theodore Morrison, age 16

An object traveling just above half the speed of sound. Sounds intimidating? Not for NASA, intend to launch an unmanned spacecraft into space to investigate an object which is made up of an unknown metal. NASA hopes to gain new insight from the asteroid in regards to Earth and its history.

The object is conjectured to have been previously located at the center of a now non-existent planet as the metal core of the planet. NASA hopes to gain valuable insight into the core of Earth by studying this object, believed to have a similar composition to Earth. Even if NASA discovers that their conjecture is incorrect, a secondary theory remains an exciting possibility. That theory states that it formed in the proximity of the sun when the heat burned away the materials until the iron atoms formed into a solid metal state. A further explanation, as a third possibility, is that it is a grouping of materials forming a natural model of our archaic solar system. This knowledge will provide valuable information to the scientific community regarding the origin of the world we live in today.

Information is not the only thing we are gaining from this project. This project will be the first to utilize Hall Effect thrusters in space, an innovative propulsion system that utilizes the ionization of xenon gas, which is often seen in science-fiction movies such as Star Wars. The process of ionization specifically involves changing the number of electrons in an atom by one or two which then forms an electric field capable in this particular circumstance of generating enough forward thrust to travel at the speed of 32,400 MPH in space. Fun fact, xenon gas is additionally used to make sure that car headlights work. [Read More]

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe Flies Toward the Sun

by Daniel Li, age 16

NASA's Parker Solar Probe has achieved a remarkable feat by getting close enough to the Sun to study the intricate details of solar wind. This has revealed information that was previously hidden as the solar wind left the Sun's corona in a uniform stream of charged particles.

Understanding the origin of the solar wind is crucial for predicting solar storms, which are responsible for auroras on Earth, but they also disrupt satellites and power grids. In a forthcoming article in the journal Nature, a team led by Professor Stuart D. Bale from the University of California, Berkeley, and James Drake from the University of Maryland-College Park, reveals the Parker Solar Probe has found that coronal holes are where solar wind originates.

According to their findings, some exceptionally high-energy particles detected by the Parker Solar Probe, launched in 2018, can only be explained by magnetic reconnection. [Read More]

Exploring Mercury, NASA's Mission to the Solar System's Hottest Planet

by Lina Alquraishi, age 9

Scientists knew very little about the planet Mercury up until 1974 when NASA launched the Spacecraft Mariner, which opened the door to vast amounts of information.

Christened after the Roman god, Mercury stands as the smallest planet in the solar system and has zero moons. The tiny planet teems with boiling temperatures during the day followed by ultra-freezing winds at night. This is largely due to the lack of an atmosphere on the planet, enabling the weather to vary greatly. Atmospheres are important because they work to contain the heat within a planet. If Earth had no atmosphere, for instance, the temperatures would range from -310 to 230 degrees, making life unsustainable.

Like Earth, Mercury is made of three layers: the core, the mantle, and a thin outer crust. The planet houses several old craters and layers on its surface due to the innumerable asteroids, meteorites, and comets that have crashed into it. [Read More]

The Complex Steps and Technologies Behind Spacecraft Missions

by Aarosh Subedi, age 11

There are many steps before you launch a spacecraft, and many kinds of spacecraft are important to the technology we use today. Multiple types of satellites watch the world around us. Meteorological satellites give meteorologists information about what the weather will look like. Communication satellites make television possible to watch; navigation satellites help people guide their ships in water; geodetic satellites help record unknown places on Earth. Satellites that are used by militaries help perform observations to find enemies in specific places. Many more types of innovations are used to go to space.

It takes many months to launch a spacecraft. Before a launch, the instruments will perform the experiments and functions for the assigned mission to ensure everything works properly. This takes place in phases, where technicians put together components and make sure they work together. While the spacecraft's instrumentation is being powered up, the components for the launching vehicle also go through the same process.

The last step for integration is connecting the spacecraft and launcher and having them be part of a countdown practice. The spacecraft and the launcher are set next to each other on a launching pad, the support base that holds the spacecraft in place. This support structure, called the gantry, holds the spacecraft from falling over on its side. [Read More]

Venus, Earth's Mysterious Neighbor with Peculiar Traits

by Chelsea Zheng, age 11

Venus is the second planet from the sun and neighbor to Earth. Besides the moon, Venus is the brightest object that can be seen in the night sky.

Astronomers believe that Earth and Venus may have comparable histories due to their similar size, mass, and volume. However, researchers wonder why Venus is so different compared to Earth today.

Venus’s rotation is unlike any other planet in the solar system. It also has no moons. One rotation on Earth is 24 hours, but one on Venus is about 243 Earth days. Venus’s rotation around the sun is about 117 Earth days. Venus is the only planet that rotates longer around its axis than once around the sun. Every other planet rotates clockwise, while Venus and Uranus rotate counterclockwise. [Read More]

The System Scientists Use to Track Near-Earth Objects

by Dulce Maria Vazquez, age 14

The Torino scale is a system that predicts the chances of objects in space hitting the Earth. Established in 1999, the Torino scale rates the potential of an asteroid to cause harm by looking at its size, and the probability that it will hit the Earth. The scale ranges from zero to ten—zero means no danger and ten means that an asteroid is guaranteed to hit the Earth, and large enough that an impact would cause worldwide destruction.

This scale is meant to be an easier way for people to understand the risk associated with asteroid impacts. However, there has been a public debate about whether the scale is helpful. Some say there are other systems that are more effective. Others say the Torino scale isn't beneficial because it's unlikely for an asteroid to impact Earth.

If an asteroid appears to be approaching Earth, it is observed continually until its orbit can be determined. If astronomers determine there is no chance for an object to hit our planet, the object is assigned a zero on the Torino scale. But if there is a chance the asteroid could harm the Earth in the next 100 years, it will be given a higher value. [Read More]

Four Consecutive “Supermoons” Visible in Wisconsin this Fall

by Dayanis Torres Cruz, age 13

In the coming months, there will be a lunar eclipse, a blue moon, and multiple supermoons. Supermoons are brighter and are seven percent bigger than the average size of a full moon because the moon is closest to Earth during these times.

There will be a blue supermoon on August 30th, which is very rare. It will be the second full moon of the month. The term "blue supermoon" was coined in 1883 after the Krakatoa Volcano eruption, as debris in the sky gave the moon a blue appearance.

The full harvest supermoon will occur on September 29th, following the fall equinox. During this time, farmers can work at night due to the moonlight illuminating all the crops. [Read More]

The Mighty Sun, Stellar Powerhouse Illuminating the Solar System and Nurturing Life on Earth

by Daileni Cruz, age 10

The Sun was born nearly five billion years ago and still has quite a long time to live. The diameter of the sun is about 864,950 miles making the sun 109 times bigger than Earth. It also is 333,000 times heavier than our planet.

The sun has multiple layers that serve different purposes. The Sun's core is the source of its energy and is extremely hot. The surface of the sun is named the photosphere, which produces light and heat for planets. The corona is the largest outer layer and has solar winds that reach Earth. However, these solar winds are blocked because of Earth’s magnetic field.

The surface of the Sun can develop dark spots. Violent and rapid solar flares can cause eruptions near sunspots; these flares release magnetic energy. Another feature of the sun is the red loops around the atmosphere called prominences. These are large clouds of gas that extend outward around the Sun's atmosphere. Geomagnetic storms are caused by solar flares that can damage satellites and radio transmissions. [Read More]

The Fiery Death of Leonard’s Comet

by Leilani McNeal, age 17

After scientists expected its demise for a year, Leonard’s Comet, the brightest comet of 2021, has finally disintegrated. But its tumultuous journey to the sun has caused excitement among astronomers.

Comet C/2021 A1, generally referred to as Leonard’s Comet, began breaking apart after passing the sun on January 3, 2022 at perihelion, which occurs when a comet is at its closest to the sun.

Post-perihelion, the comet has lost its nucleus and its temporary atmosphere. The outermost layer of the once powerful comet has disintegrated. [Read More]

The Cosmic Oasis and Jupiter's Largest Moons

by Amelia Pearson, age 13

One of the three largest moons on Jupiter, named Europa, is said to be the most promising place to find alien life in our solar system today.

Recently, there was a mission launched by the European Space Agency called the Juice mission to Jupiter. The Juice mission’s main job is to make observations of Jupiter. The spacecraft's purpose is to also get close-up images of the three largest moons of Jupiter. The three largest moons are Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto. They are all very icy and it is believed beneath their surfaces, there are oceans.

These moons were not discovered until the 17th century by Galileo. He also discovered a fourth moon on Jupiter named Io. This moon is hot and fiery, covered in mostly volcanoes, which are the most active out of anywhere in the solar system. Galileo discovered these four moons on Jupiter, and he realized that Earth is not the center of the universe. [Read More]

Mars: Planet of Mystery and Discovery

by Dayanis Torres Cruz, age 13

Mars was named after an ancient Roman god of war. The rocks and soil on the surface of the planet are usually a type of rusty chestnut color, making Mars known as the red planet.

The surface of Mars is flat, empty, and rocky, containing many canyons. Mars even has the the largest volcano in the solar system. Mars moves around the Sun in an oval orbit, it can go from 128 to 155 million miles away from the Sun.

Earth and Mars have some similarities and differences. Like Earth, Mars has three main layers: the crust, mantle and core. Time on Mars is different than Earth; a year on Mars is 687 days while a year on Earth is 365 days. Earth has only one moon while the red planet has two moons. Scientists think about the size, mass, rotation rate, and overall activity of Mars but do not know exactly what Mars looks like under the surface, although they’ve made models of the interior. Similar to Earth, Mars has an atmosphere, however, the gas on Mars is not particularly thick. [Read More]

Mysterious Ring Discovered in the Outer Solar System

by Jonah Smith, age 14

Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus, and Saturn all have one major thing in common: they all have rings. Some might not be as visible as Saturn’s rings, but they do exist. Even things like dwarf planets and asteroids have rings. These rings all are specifically distanced from the parent body. Quaoar, however, has rings that fall outside this domain. This makes Quaoar’s rings seemingly impossible.

Quaoar is a dwarf planet. Dwarf planets are planet-like bodies that do not fit all of the requirements to be deemed a planet. Quaoar itself is an icy body smaller than Pluto inside the Kuiper Belt at our solar system's edge. Due to it being so far away, it makes it difficult to research.

Even with these difficulties, Bruno Morgado, an astrologer at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, found a way to gather information about Quaoar. Morgado formed a team to observe when Quaoar blocked the light of a star. This observation revealed details about its size and its own atmosphere. [Read More]

Saturn: A Fascinating Planet with Unique Characteristics and Enigmatic Moons

by Kaleab Afeworki, age 11

Saturn is the second-largest planet in the solar system. There are many features of Saturn that make it an interesting planet to study.

Saturn's the only plant in the solar system that has less density than water, it has a mean density of 0.687 grams per cubic centimeter. Saturn’s mass is about 95 times the Earth's mass. Saturn is also made out of hydrogen and helium, some of the lightest gasses in the universe. It is made up of approximately 75 percent hydrogen and 25 percent helium with some other substances as well. In fact, Saturn could float in your bathtub!

Usually, Saturn sends more heat into space than it collects from the Sun. It has large storms every thirty years. If you are on the northern part of the equator, you would see white objects in the sky which are called ammonia crystals, also known as the “Great White Spots.” [Read More]

Will Humans Travel Through Wormholes?

by Theodore B. Morrison, age 15

Researchers have been intrigued by an interesting new concept involving wormholes, the event of space bending and creating two linked holes in different areas of space. This concept suggests that when a wormhole starts shrinking under certain conditions, it would be possible to quickly send a message through it.

Through a simulation, Ben Jain, a physicist at a college in Massachusetts, determined that the mission probably would be aiming to send a message out of the wormhole with an automated machine, not by a manned mission through the wormhole.

This message could provide insightful information on wormholes. The message would contain valuable video that could detail the interior of wormholes and give precious evidence of how these anomalies function. Using this understanding, scientists could, hopefully, create wormholes for humanity to travel throughout the universe without much time constraint. [Read More]

Vast Oort Cloud Surrounds our Solar System

by Max Moreno, age 10

The Oort Cloud is a vast area full of billions of comets and icy bodies that surrounds the solar system. The Oort Cloud has developed into a shell-like structure that began about 4.5 billion years ago. It is a spherical layer that extends far beyond our solar system that astronomers just recently began studying.

Since the cloud is so far away from the Sun, it is easily affected by any object that passes by it. For example, if a star or comet passes by, their gravitational pulls could possibly pull objects from the Oort Cloud. Some astronomers believe that the Oort Cloud was first formed closer to the Sun and over time it was pushed out by our gas giants such as Jupiter, Saturn and others.

Similar to the Oort Cloud, is the Kuiper Belt, which is a disk-like ring that consists of comets and icy bodies that extends from Pluto to the far edge of our solar system. The Kuiper Belt resides inside the Oort Cloud and scientists continue to study more about the relationship between these celestial objects. The Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud both contain comets and asteroids. Some scientists believe that some of the comets in our solar system have come from either the Oort Cloud or the Kuiper Belt. [Read More]

In a Distant Part of our Solar System, Astronomers Find New Ring Orbiting a Small, Icy World

by Allison Torres, age 14

Billions of miles beyond Neptune, astronomers have found a new ring in space orbiting a small ice world named Quaoar. It was discovered by an international group of researchers with several Brazilian members.

Sixty researchers from different countries used telescopes on Earth and in space to confirm that the ring is orbiting approximately 2,500 miles above the surface of Quaoar.

Quaoar is about 6 billion kilometers from Earth. In other words, if someone were to walk, it would take more than one million years to get there. [Read More]

Mars is Volcanically Active, Scientists Suspect

by Daniel Garduno Martinez, age 11

Many scientists that study Mars have come to the conclusion that Mars is still volcanically active. Scientists, using information gathered from NASA’s 2018 InSight lander, have found traces of magma flowing deep under the planet's surface.

Apart from volcanoes, Mars is known for its marsquakes; just like Earth has earthquakes. These marsquakes were detected by tools used by the InSight lander that record seismic waves. Thousands of these marsquakes, some strong, and some weak were registered in a particular spot on Mars, known as Cerberus Fossae. The high-frequency marsquakes that have been experienced were not as familiar to scientists compared to the low-frequency quakes, as they are more similar to what is seen in earthquakes on Earth.

The previous theory regarding Mars was that it, like the Moon, slowly began cooling with time. This theory is partially correct, but new research suggests that, if it were true, marsquakes would occur from around all of Mars. The magma flowing many miles under the surface may be the cause of marsquakes. [Read More]

Astronomers Discover 12 Additional Moons Orbiting Around Jupiter

by Lah’Nylah Bivens, age 15

Astronomers discovered 12 new moons in Jupiter’s orbit in 2021 and 2022. That discovery bumped up Jupiter’s moon count to 92 moons, which is more than any other planet in our solar system. Previously, Saturn had the record for the most confirmed moons at 83.

Jupiter’s new moons have been added to the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center’s list of moons. Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution, who was one of the people to discover the moons, has also participated in 70 other moon findings around Jupiter.

The 12 moons were found using telescopes in Hawaii and Chile, and range from 0.06 miles to two miles in diameter. According to Sheppard, only around six of these moons are big enough to be named. This is because named moons must be at least a mile in diameter. [Read More]

How Will the Universe End?

by Abigail Gezae, age 10

Nobody knows the fate of the universe, but there are many possibilities. For example, dark energy might become so strong that it overpowers all forces including gravity. If this happens, the expansion of the universe will grow faster and faster as it is pushed apart without any limit. This theory is called the “Big Rip.”

The “Big Rip” results in galaxies, stars, planets, and all life being torn apart, but it’s also possible that the universe just keeps expanding. If dark energy stays indefinitely the same force as it is today, space will keep growing and may never come to an end. Additionally, another possible end for our universe lies trillions of years in the future.

Eventually, after the universe expands too much, no heat will be able to be spread and the temperature could drop to its lowest possible point. This will be known as the “Big Chill,” meaning no life could survive. [Read More]

What's So Special About Earth?

by Ian Kosharek, age 10

Earth is a planet consisting of many essential layers and interesting features. These unique aspects of Earth make it a foundation for life and allow for the survival of species on the planet.

Earth is made of four distinct layers: the outer crust, inner crust, outer core, and the core. The outer crust is made up of rock and dirt and is the layer humans live on. The inner crust is the mantle which is made out of thick rock. Just beneath the mantle is the outer core. This region consists of hot iron and is responsible for lava that sometimes erupts out of volcanoes. The innermost layer is the core which contains the same elements as the outer core.

Outside of Earth, the planet also has relationships with the moon! The moon orbits Earth and if you take a close look, on clear nights you can see the moon change! The moon changes based on the positioning of reflections from the sun. On Earth, a full moon is only visible when the sunlit side of the moon faces Earth. Additionally, did you know that the tides and waves on Earth are created from gravitational pulls from the moon? [Read More]

Scientists Watch as Jupiter Comes Close to Planet Earth

by Allison Torres, age 14

Earlier this year, people were able to get a glimpse of Jupiter's rings and moons with only a telescope or binoculars. Jupiter is the largest planet in our solar system and in September it passed closer to Earth than it has in 59 years.

Jupiter is at opposition, meaning Earth is halfway between the planet and the sun, with about 367 million miles between Earth and Jupiter. At its farthest point, Earth and Jupiter are about 600 million miles apart. Patrick Hartigan, a professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University in Houston, said the planet would rise around sunset and look pearly white to the naked eye.

Three to four of Jupiter’s moons could also potentially be seen, one named Europa. Trina L. Ray is a science manager for the Europa Clipper mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “Since I am working on a spacecraft that we are going to send to the Jupiter system to explore Europa, I'm always excited to see Jupiter and even Europa with my own eyes,” she said. Many scientists were excited to see Europa, as they believe there could be life on Jupiter's moon, according to “The Guardian.” [Read More]

El micrófono de Mars Rover captura el sonido del planeta rojo

por Sedona Afeworki, edad 14

El 27 de septiembre de 2021, un rover de la NASA detectó un sonido retumbante y fuertes vientos en Marte, y luego descubrió que se trataba de una tolvanera.

Una tolvanera es un pequeño vórtice que arremolina polvo, escombros y arena a grandes alturas. El torbellino en Marte tenía alrededor de 400 pies de altura y alrededor de 80 pies ancho, yendo rápido a 16 pies por segundo. Sus ráfagas retumbantes fueron de 25 millas por hora durante unos 10 segundos.

El sonido del remolino de polvo en Marte es bastante similar a cómo suena en la Tierra. Sin embargo, los sonidos son más silenciosos debido a la delgada atmósfera de Marte, que también hace que los vientos suenen más débiles. El año pasado, una tolvanera pasó por encima del Range Rover Perseverance que actualmente se encuentra en Marte. El científico Germán Martínez, coautor del Instituto Lunar y Planetario de Houston, declaró: "Persy lo atrapó con las manos en la masa". [Read More]

¿Qué es tan especial de la Tierra?

por Ian Kosharek, 10 años de edad; traducido por Yoanna Hoskins, 17 años de edad

La Tierra es un planeta que consiste de muchas capas esenciales y características interesantes. Estos aspectos únicos de la Tierra hacen una fundación para la vida y permiten la supervivencia de las especies en el planeta.

La Tierra está formada por cuatro capas distintas: la corteza exterior, la corteza interior, el núcleo exterior y el núcleo. La corteza exterior está compuesta de roca y tierra y es la capa en la que viven los humanos. La corteza interna es el manto que está hecho de roca denso. Justo debajo del manto se encuentra el núcleo exterior. Esta región consiste en hierro candente y es responsable de la lava que a veces brota de los volcanes. La capa más interna se llama el núcleo, contiene los mismos elementos que el núcleo externo.

¡Fuera de la Tierra, el planeta también tiene conexiones con la luna! ¡La luna orbita alrededor de la Tierra y si miras de cerca, en las noches claros puedes ver el cambio de la luna! La luna cambia según el posicionamiento de los reflejos del sol. En la Tierra, la luna llena solo es visible cuando el lado de la luna iluminado por el sol mira hacia la Tierra. ¿Además, sabías que las mareas y las olas en la Tierra están creados a partir de la atracción gravitacional de la luna? [Read More]

Eerie Double Aurora Lights Up Northern Sky

by Emily Rodriguez Lima, age 13

Two different auroras have appeared together at the same time with colors resembling a watermelon: green on the bottom and red on top. This phenomenon was seen by amateur astronomer Alan Dyers. Dyers was outside his house when he saw a beautiful display of the Northern Lights up in the sky. He took out his camera to record this unique image; his recording is the most complete recording of this special aurora.

This aurora differs from other Northern Lights, not only because of its unusual colors, but because of how these colors are made. The color green is a standard aurora, which comes from protons raining down into Earth's magnetic field. This causes the protons to bump into atoms and electrons.

The red part of the aurora has already been seen in other auroras, however astronomers do not know how it is made. The color red of this aurora is new to both astronomers and scientists and is believed to come from magnetic fields that heat up in certain parts of the Earth’s atmosphere, which can knock some particles around. They believe that when electron rain appears, it triggers the red aurora. [Read More]

Would You Want to Live on Neptune?

by Dilma Attidekou, age 8

Neptune, the smallest out of all outer planets, is known for its blue color. Methane is the reason for its color. Neptune has less then four percent of methane within its atmosphere.

Neptune is very far from Earth, approximately 2.5 billion miles away. Pluto is usually farther from the sun than Neptune, but once every 248 years, Pluto crosses in front of Neptune. The planet has enormous storms, but they don’t last as long as Jupiter's great Red Spot.

Neptune takes 165 Earth years to orbit around the sun. Due to the planet's orbit being almost a perfect circle, its seasons are all of even length. Neptune’s climate and seasons are different from Earth’s seasons. [Read More]

What Will Happen to Earth When the Sun Dies?

by Juan Esteban Palma Zuluaga, age 10

Our sun, like other stars, will die. Stars only shine as long as they have a source of energy, and eventually that gives out.

The sun converts 700 million tons of hydrogen in its core into 695 million tons of helium to create its own energy, but once all the hydrogen in its core has fused, the sun will begin to run out of fuel. When the sun dies, it will not only impact the Earth, but the entire solar system.

The sun was born about 4.6 billion years ago, it is believed the sun is about halfway through its life. In around 5 billion years, nuclear fusion will be impossible inside the sun. The sun will then run out of hydrogen in its core. When that finishes, it will convert the hydrogen in its outer layers. [Read More]

From the Big Bang to Humankind: How Life Emerged — by Julian Medina Ruiz, age 14

About 12 billion years ago, a big explosion, presently known as the “Big Bang,” created the universe.[Read More]

Local Observatory Renamed For STEM Pioneer Jocelyn Bell Burnell — by Mariah Justice, age 17

“Astronomy compels the soul to look upward, and leads us from this world to another,” said Greek philosopher Plato. With the renaming event on September 7 for the Bell Burnell Observatory— previously the Oscar Mayer Observatory—Madison has a new facility for cultivating the exploration of astronomy. [Read More]

Volcano Explosion Shoots Water into Space — by Theodore Morrison, age 15

A volcanic eruption that occurred in the Pacific Ocean on January 12, 2022 reserved itself a spot in history when it ejected its water vapor into space for the first time in recorded history. [Read More]

Primera planta brota con éxito en suelo lunar — por Daniel Li, 15 años

Las primeras semillas que brotaron en suelo lunar asomaron sus cabezas por encima de la tierra lunar en la Universidad de Florida en mayo. Décadas de investigación y experimentación condujeron a este avance que marca la primera vez que las plantas terrestres crecen en suelo extraterrestre. También ofrece la esperanza de que algún día los astronautas puedan cultivar alimentos en la luna. [Read More]

New Space Rover Looks for Life on Mars — by Justin Medina, age 13

In July of 2020, the NASA Jet Propulsion team launched a rover called “Perseverance” in hopes of proving whether or not life once existed on Mars. [Read More]

Pluto Is Not a Planet – It’s a Dwarf Planet — by Hiba Al-Quraishi, age 14

Pluto is referred to as a “dwarf planet” due to its diminutive size. Pluto is only half the size of North America which is why it’s categorized as a dwarf planet. [Read More]

Japanese Scientists Discover that Saturn's Rings Will Dissipate — by Avaiana House, age 14

Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second-largest in the Solar System. It is known for the colorful rings surrounding it, made up of rock and icy materials. These rings consists of colors such as pink, red, brown or gray. [Read More]

Pluto: Planet or Planetesimal? — by Dulce Maria Vazquez, age 13

Pluto was discovered in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh. Pluto was once considered the ninth planet but was demoted to a dwarf planet in 2006. [Read More]

What Will it Take to Survive a Trip to Mars? — by Jason Medina Ruiz, age 11

Mars, along with our solar system, was formed from a large spinning disk of gas and dust. Astronomers believe that this occurred about 4.6 billion years ago. Reaching Mars will be the longest journey in human history. The trip has a distance of about 225 million kilometers, with six months to arrive, and six months to return to Earth. [Read More]

Astronauts Face Bone Weakness While in Space — by Moore Vang, age 13

Astronauts may want to prepare for their next space mission by bringing exercise gear for their legs. [read more]

Hubble Telescope Explores Another Giant Red Spot on Jupiter — by Giovanni Tecuatl, age 17

Did you know that storms form in places other than on Planet Earth? NASA has studied storms on planets in our Solar System for many years. And NASA continues to study large storms on Jupiter. In August of 2020, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope captured images of another giant storm on the surface of Jupiter. Scientists refer to this area of storms as “Red Spot Junior.” [Read More]

The International Space Station Is Retiring, What Does this Mean for Space Exploration? —
by Theodore Morrison, age 14

The International Space Station is considered a constant symbol of humanity's achievements in the fields of space science and diplomacy. Many will be shocked to learn that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has plans to retire and crash the station straight into the ocean in 2031. [read more]

Understanding Gas Giants: What Is a “Hot Jupiter” Anyway? — by Elim Eyobed, age 11

What are gas giants? Gas giants are large planets of relatively low density consisting predominantly of hydrogen and helium, such as Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. These planets, unlike their counterparts, don’t have hard surfaces that are made from rock. Instead they’re comprised of “swirling gases and a solid core.” [Read More]