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    The Sight of Jupiter and Saturn Together Is a Beautiful Thing

    A conjunction is a good time to reflect on our cosmic heritage, and on the long shadows cast by the gas giants.Illustration by SN VFX / Shutterstock Today, December 21, Jupiter and Saturn will appear extremely close to each other in the sky, less than a tenth of a degree apart, about one fifth the […]

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    How ‘Oumuamua Got Shredded

    ‘Oumuamua may be a piece of a torn-apart comet, gravitationally launched into interstellar space, that roamed the galaxy before dropping on our doorstep.ESO / M. Kornmesser / Wikicommons Our solar system’s first houseguest—at least, the first one we have seen in our midst—is a strange one. Scientists have taken to calling it ‘Oumuamua (pronounced “Oh-MOO-ah-MOO-ah”), […]

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    I Built a Stable Planetary System with 416 Planets in the Habitable Zone

    This system is completely stable—I double-checked with computer simulations. But nature would have a tough time forming this system. If it exists, it could only have been built by a super-advanced civilization.Image by Sean Raymond / planetplanet.net When Frank Drake was a boy, growing up in 1930s Chicago, his parents, observant Baptists, enrolled him in […]

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    I Built a Stable Planetary System with 416 Planets in the Habitable Zone

    This system is completely stable—I double-checked with computer simulations. But nature would have a tough time forming this system. If it exists, it could only have been built by a super-advanced civilization.Image by Sean Raymond / planetplanet.net When Frank Drake was a boy, growing up in 1930s Chicago, his parents, observant Baptists, enrolled him in […]

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    A Visual History of Humanity’s Exploration of Pluto

    Before I could string full sentences together, I used to wander outside past my bedtime. I would push open the sliding glass door and immediately look up, searching for stars sprinkled beyond the silhouetted trees. At the time, I couldn’t even begin to comprehend what I was seeing. Instead, each beacon of light represented a […]

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    The Genetics of the Earth and Moon

    Imagine that two very similar-looking neighbors undergo a genetic test. The exam shows that the pair’s genetic fingerprints are virtually identical. They feel a flash of shock and excitement. What does this mean? Could they be long-lost twins, separated in a hospital mixup? The Earth and Moon share a similar issue, one that poses a […]

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    Give Thanks to Jupiter, our Little Planet’s Big Protector

    Jupiter is famous for its Great Red Spot, but the stormy planet may also be responsible for keeping the inner solar system calm.NASA/JPL You are special, just like your parents used to tell you. You are a rare flower, a unique snowflake. Just like everyone else. How about our solar system? Is it special? Earth […]

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    Our Prodigal Sun

    Searching the heavens for our sun’s family.

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    Space Travel for Everyone: The Intergalactic Travel Bureau

    Trudging through the mire of midtown Manhattan in the middle of a July heat wave makes you long for relief from your earthly trials—and at the corner of 8th Avenue and 37th Street last week, you could find one. Nautilus popped in to the Intergalactic Travel Bureau, a pop-up shop promoting moon-hopping, sun-surfing, and all forms […]

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    Two Good Ways to Really *Get* the Solar System

    The Sun is one busy celestial body. In addition to giving us light, holding the solar system together, and providing the energy for almost every living thing on Earth, it’s also a grapefruit in a grass field in Austin, Texas, and a 50-foot yellow archway in northern Maine. Now, obviously this huge mass of incandescent gas […]