Dear Light Years followers,
This blog burst onto the scene when the last NASA shuttle launched in July 2011. There were only three people involved in CNN Light Years at that time – myself, former CNNer Sophia Dengo and former CNN.com U.S. editor Audrey Irvine.
The shuttle program was ending, but a new era for science and space coverage on CNN.com had dawned. We quickly figured out what you, our audience, would want to read: The latest discoveries, the coolest research, weird animals, random geekiness. We gave it to you in an accurate and easy-to-understand format. And we'll keep doing that – just not on this blog.
Today we are closing CNN Light Years as a blog, but we will have the same high-caliber science reporting elsewhere on CNN.com. In our U.S., World, Health and Technology sections, we will continue to lead - as we've done in the past - with stories about new planets, climate change, prehistoric marvels and more.
We hope that you will visit CNN.com to learn something new every day, and keep participating in the conversations that we have around this marvelous universe in which we live.
Writer/Producer, CNN Light Years
By Katie Hunt and Zhang Dayu, CNN
Chinese spaceship blasted off Tuesday from a launch center in the Gobi Desert, carrying three astronauts on what is expected to be the Asian giant's longest crewed mission yet.
Propelled by a Long March-2F rocket, the Shenzhou 10 craft is scheduled to dock with the Tiangong-1 space module where the crew will transfer supplies to the space lab, which has been in orbit since September 2011.
China has stepped up the pace of its space program since first sending astronaut Yang Liwei into orbit in 2003. In 2012, it conducted 18 space launches, according to the Pentagon.
Tuesday's launch from the the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center marks the start of China's fifth crewed space mission.
By Nic Robertson, CNN
The first thing I noticed were the bicycles. Those who weren't riding them were walking.
I was beginning to wonder if we'd taken a wrong turn. We were looking for China's super-secret space center.
Our four-hour drive from Jiuquan in China's west had taken us past picture postcard fields and fish ponds framed by looming snow-capped peaks, through an oasis of green and finally across the arid Gobi desert.
By Amanda Barnett, CNN
Comet ISON may put on a show when it skims through the sun's atmosphere later this year. Right now, it's still far away, but we're keeping track and will give you regular updates. Here are five key facts about ISON as we await its arrival:
What's with the funky name?
Comet ISON was discovered by Russian astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok in September 2012. It's named after their night-sky survey program, the International Scientific Optical Network, a group of observatories in 10 countries organized to track objects in space.
Justin Bieber's reach could soon extend out of this world.
According to a tweet from Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson, the 19-year-old pop star and his manager, Scooter Braun, have joined Ashton Kutcher as the latest celebrities to sign up for a ride on Branson's SpaceShip Two commercial space flight.
"Great to hear @justinbieber & @scooterbraun are latest @virgingalactic future astronauts," Branson tweeted Wednesday. "Congrats, see you up there!"
By Josh Levs, CNN
When astronaut Neil Armstrong uttered what became one of the best-known - and most debated - quotes in all of history, he actually might have said it exactly the way he meant to, not the way people heard it.
After Armstrong lowered his left foot from the landing craft to the surface of the moon, people watching around the world heard him call it "one small step for man."
Both he and NASA initially insisted that he said "one small step for a man," and now a new and novel study on the much-analyzed quote backs him up.
An asteroid is whizzing past Earth on Friday - and it's traveling with its own moon in tow.
1998 QE2, as NASA has named it, will not come anywhere near enough to collide with our world.
The closest it will come is about 3.6 million miles away - that's over 15 times the distance to our moon. It will reach that point just before 5 p.m. ET.
But it's giving astronomers the "best look at this asteroid ever," NASA said.
For those of you dreaming of visiting Mars, readings taken during the Curiosity rover's voyage to the Red Planet offer a new measurement to ponder as you weigh the risks.
Mars-bound pioneers will be exposed to radiation levels that could effectively retire astronauts under NASA's current standards, scientists reported Thursday. The radiation astronauts would face on a round trip would be comparable to getting an abdominal CT scan "about once every five days," said Cary Zeitlin, principal scientist for the NASA-led Martian Radiation Environment Experiment.
Jupiter, Venus and Mercury are expected to form a bright cluster in the sky. Watch the video to learn more.
Editor's note: Meg Urry is the Israel Munson professor of physics and astronomy and chairwoman of the department of physics at Yale University, where she is the director of the Yale Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics.
(CNN) - On Wednesday, NASA officials announced a serious problem with the Kepler satellite, the world's most successful planet-finding machine.
Since its launch four years ago, Kepler has found more than 2,700 possible planets orbiting stars other than our Sun, of which more than 100 have been confirmed. A few of these exoplanets resemble the Earth in size or mass.
Recently, three Earth-like planets were even reported to be in the habitable zone: close enough to the star they orbit that water is liquid, yet not so close that it is boiling. Planets with liquid water may well harbor life.