TIME space

See New Horizons’ Entire Pluto Flyby in 23 Seconds

Get a good look at the dwarf planet

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft completed its near decade-long mission to Pluto with a flyby of the dwarf planet and its moons in July, capturing the best images we have to date.

NASA has collected these images into the above animation, showing the flyby from the spacecraft’s point of view, including a close encounter with Pluto, a pass behind the planet revealing its atmospheric glow lit by the sun, and a pass behind Charon, Pluto’s largest moon. The animation ends with a wide view of Pluto and Charon as New Horizons makes its departure.

After New Horizons left Pluto behind, NASA announced a potential new destination for the spacecraft: a Kuiper Belt object (KBO) known as 2014 MU69 that is nearly a billion miles away from Pluto. “2014 MU69 is a great choice because it is just the kind of ancient KBO, formed where it orbits now, that the Decadal Survey desired us to fly by,” New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colo., said in a press release. “Moreover, this KBO costs less fuel to reach [than other candidate targets], leaving more fuel for the flyby, for ancillary science, and greater fuel reserves to protect against the unforeseen.”

TIME space

See Photos of Last Night’s ‘Supermoon’

One of the three largest full moons of this year rose in the sky last night

TIME space

See the Massive Mountain on Dwarf Planet Ceres

Ceres Dawn Mountain
NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA NASA's Dawn spacecraft spotted this tall, conical mountain on Ceres on Aug. 19, 2015.

It's just a bit shorter than Mt. Everest

Very small worlds can do very big things—providing you’re willing to grade on a curve. Take the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest body in the asteroid belt, which is currently being orbited by the Dawn spacecraft. Ceres is just 591 miles (952 km) across—or 73% of the size of Texas—with only 3% of Earth’s gravity. If you weigh 150 lbs. here, you’d weigh 4.5 lbs. there.

But Ceres has a mountain—and it’s a whopper, as evidenced by this latest image sent home by Dawn, orbiting at an altitude of 915 miles (1,470 km). The mountain stands 4 miles (6 km) tall—a bit shorter than Mt. Everest, which tops out at 5.49 miles (8.83 km). But context is everything. A 4-mile-tall mountain on a tiny world like Ceres is the equivalent of a 49.8-mile-tall (80.1 km) mountain on Earth, or nine times taller than a pipsqueak like Everest. The Ceres mountain is not terribly active—at least as evidenced by the absence of debris at its base—but it is scored by a bright streak running down its side, which suggests some kind of dynamic processes at least in the past.

Every pixel of the Dawn image represents 450 ft. (140 m) of Ceres’ surface, which is already an impressively granular resolution. In the future, the spacecraft will approach the surface at just 25% of its current altitude, improving image detail dramatically. Whatever secrets Ceres is keeping Dawn may soon reveal.

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TIME space

See a Newly-Released Image of Saturn’s Moon Dione

Saturn Moon Dione Cassini Farewell
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute/EPA A visible light image of Saturn's moon Dione captured with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on April 11, 2015 and released on Aug. 17, 2015.

Despite the high-resolution images Cassini sent back, Dione remains a mystery to scientists

NASA released this never-before-seen image of Saturn’s moon Dione as the Cassini spacecraft said goodbye to it on August 17. Photos of the final encounter are expected to reach Earth in the next few days.

Cassini was the first spacecraft to enter Saturn’s orbit, and for the last 11 years, it’s been studying the planet and its many satellites including Dione, Titan and Rhea. Cassini will now make a series of close moon flybys until late 2015, at which time it will begin a year-long setup of the mission’s daring finale, NASA said, when it will repeatedly dive through the space between Saturn and its rings.

In the meantime, NASA’s scientists will await the final high-resolution images from Dione to come in, especially those the spacecraft will take of the moon’s north pole. They hope to find out if Dione has geological activity. “Dione has been an enigma, giving hints of active geologic processes, including a transient atmosphere and evidence of ice volcanoes,” says Bonnie Buratti, a Cassini science team member at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “But we’ve never found the smoking gun. The fifth flyby of Dione [was] our last chance.”

TIME astronomy

Watch Highlights From the Perseid Meteor Shower

Up to 100 meteors per hour flew by the Earth

The Perseid meteor shower lit up the night sky Wednesday as up to 100 meteors per hour flew by the Earth. Astronomers say the view this year will be especially spectacular thanks to the position of the moon.

If you missed the action outside, check out highlights from TIME’s live broadcast. The program, provided by Slooh, includes livestreams from prime viewing locations around the world, including in the Canary Islands, Canada and the United Kingdom. Experts also provide commentary to help viewers understand the science behind the phenomenon.

TIME astronomy

Here’s When to See the Perseid Meteor Shower

Perseids Meteor Shower
Blaline McCartney—AP Perseid meteors, upper left, streak past time-lapse-captured stars early morning on Aug. 13, 2013 north of Cheyenne , Wyo.

Aug. 12 and Aug. 13 will be the ideal nights to catch the shower

Watch the Perseid Meteor Shower Live

Armchair astronomers, get ready. One of the best meteor showers of the year is coming in just a few days.

The Perseid meteor shower will be lighting up the night sky starting Wednesday. The annual display could fill the sky with as many as 100 meteors per hour during its peak, according to NASA. This year the shower is peaking just before a new moon, so meteors will appear especially bright on the background of darkness.

Aug. 12 and Aug. 13 will be the ideal nights to catch the Perseids. NASA advises viewers to get as far away from city lights as possible and to keep the binoculars and telescopes at home as the meteors are easiest to see when taking in the whole sky. Also, don’t look at your cell phone. The bright screen will delay your eyes’ ability to get accustomed to the dark.

TIME astronomy

See an Incredible Photo of Friday Night’s Blue Moon

blue moon statue liberty new york
Eduardo Munoz—Reuters A full moon, known as the Blue Moon, is seen next to the Statue of Liberty in New York on July 31, 2015.

It usually happens just once every couple of years

The second full moon of July rose Friday night, a phenomenon referred to as a “blue moon.”

Though the phrase “once in a blue moon” is meant to describe a rare event, a blue moon is neither rare, or blue. “Blue moon” is actually a term used to describe the second full moon in a single calendar month. Most years only have 12 moons, but this year has 13, which happens every two to three years, according to astronomers. “Blue moons” don’t actually appear blue, but the moon can appear blue after events on earth like wildfires and volcanic eruptions, according to NASA.

TIME astronomy

A Blue Moon Is Coming This Friday

They happen about…once in a blue moon

Blue moons aren’t actually blue, but they are as rare as the saying goes.

The second full moon in a month is commonly referred to as a blue moon—we had a full moon on July 2, and we’ll have another this Friday on July 31—but there’s a more complicated definition according to the U.S. Naval Observatory:

“The traditional definition is that of the third Full Moon to occur in an astronomical season in which four Full Moons fall. While somewhat more cryptic than the ‘second-of-the-month’ variety, this scheme helped farmers and other people who used traditional Full Moon names to keep the proper names in synch with the occasional “extra” Full Moon that occurs about every 2.6 years. The “controversy” over the proper definition of the “Blue Moon” dates back to an erroneous discussion of the phenomenon that was originally published in 1946 and subsequently re-discovered in 1999.”

TIME astronomy

Watch the Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower Live

The best time to watch is between moonset and sunrise early Wednesday morning

The Delta Aquarid meteor shower is set to light up skies across the globe with shooting stars in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

While the Delta Aquarid meteor shower started on July 12 and is expected to continue until Aug. 23, the time between moonset and sunrise early Wednesday morning is slated to be the best time to see the shower’s shooting stars.

Astronomers suggest gazing up at the sky a few hours before dawn—at about 2 a.m.—when meteor showers are easiest to see and most frequent, with up to 15 or 20 meteors per hour. While a telescope or binoculars are unnecessary, city dwellers might find the showers hard to see; NASA suggests getting as far away from “urban light pollution as possible and find a location with a clear, unclouded view of the night sky.”

Click here to see where NASA recommends you watch meteor showers in your area.

Watch a livestream of the meteor shower at the top of this post starting at 9 p.m. EDT.

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