Feature Stories

  • Cosmic Cowboy
    A brand of researcher can now breathe life into the aura of a patient nomad who searches the horizon for signs of a new world. McDonald Observatory astronomer Bill Cochran discusses how a West Texas telescope has begun chalking up discoveries of extrasolar planets.
    more...
  • Dining on Diamonds
    When scientists found their second Mars' rover had landed inside a crater, they expressed surprise. When evidence pointed to that crater once having been soaked in water, they had accomplished a primary mission goal.
    more...
  • Rocking the Cradle of Life
    When did life begin? One evidential clue stems from the fossil records in Western Australia, although whether these layered sediments are biological or chemical has spawned a spirited debate. Oxford researcher, Nicola McLoughlin, describes some of the issues in contention.
    more...
  • Towards Mysterious Mercury
    The MESSENGER spacecraft launched into space early this morning. It then began a long seven-year journey to Mercury, an incredibly dense world that may have withered in the heat of the sun.
    more...
  • Countdown Meets Perfect Storm
    The early Monday morning launch of the first orbital mission to Mercury encountered a difficult weather pattern that scrubbed what operators call an 'instantaneous' launch window. Although the mission will extend to seven years until 2011, only twelve seconds are available to time
    more...
  • Moon Written in Stone
    In stark relief against the arid Oman desert, meteor hunters have found a rock launched from the moon before life even had time to take hold on Earth. More remarkable was the scientists' ability to unravel its complex timeline to give a complete history written
    more...
  • Straining Down a Rathole
    The Mars Opportunity rover is inching its way down the slope of Endurance Crater, and each step has entailed stopping for a drilling sample from the rock abrasion tool. Confirming earlier findings of high sulfur content and a plausible water history, the new results
    more...
  • The Spillproof Earth
    Texas A&M University and NASA are teaming up to bring new levels of planetary protection against forward contamination of other worlds from our space probes. The team hopes to sterilize future hardware using a well-known technique called electron beam irradiation.
    more...
  • Sending a Messenger to Mercury
    Visiting an inner planet like Mercury exposes a spacecraft to eleven times the solar intensity compared to Earth. But the early August launch of the MESSENGER probe will look for cometary water-ice in any shaded areas, until it eventually crashes and plants its flag.
    more...
  • Mars Echoes of Earthtones
    As the Spirit rover gets its bearings after a one-mile trek to Columbia Hills, the landscape has transformed from flat plains to exposed vertical faces. To a geologist, finding such layering offers a history lesson in which element dominated its ancient past.
    more...
  • Moving Forward By Moving Backward
    To manage on five out of six wheels, the Spirit rover has found backing up to be more efficient than driving forward. The net result however continues to impress mission scientists as they back their way into the Columbia Hills.
    more...
  • Morning Star, Ripped from the Headlines
    The biggest event on the internet for June 2004 was not a sports or political event. The big story was a specialized eclipse that did not even dim the afternoon brightness here on Earth. What was the big deal about Venus?
    more...
  • The Search for More Earths
    When astronomers first realized that the stars in the sky were like our Sun, only more distant, they wondered if those stars had planets too. And if they have planets, is there life? Intelligent life? There's an answer - yes or no - but we
    more...
  • Aura Around Earth
    Overcoming technical launch challenges, a three-ton satellite named Aura, the third large satellite in NASA's Earth Observing System, is set to launch this week on a mission to study the upper atmosphere.
    more...
  • Oxygen in Saturn’s E Ring
    While en route to Saturn, Cassini detected a sudden, massive buildup of oxygen in the planet's E ring. Where did all that oxygen come from? No-one knows for sure. But now that Cassini's gotten a little closer to the ringed world, scientists are hopeful that
    more...