July 10th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

The most amazing photos of the sky

Team iReport heard that Light Years is celebrating its first birthday this week, so we wanted to take a minute to look back at what's been an amazing year for celestial events.

Sky and space enthusiasts shared some incredible photos on iReport and Light Years, from the northern lights and the super moon to a rare solar eclipse and a space shuttle's final flight.

Scroll through the gallery above to see a few of the highlights.

And for a special birthday treat, iReporter Hans-Dieter Fleger of Atraa, Norway compiled this beautiful time-lapse video comprising some 1,000 images of the northern lights in September 2011 and April 2012.

The next time the sky puts on a show, share your photos with iReport! They could be featured on CNN.

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Filed under: iReport • Voices
Overheard on CNN.com: Mars rover naming schemes, not-so-tropical space vacations
NASA's Curiosity is set to touch down on Mars in August. The rover is bound for Gale Crater.
June 15th, 2012
07:55 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Mars rover naming schemes, not-so-tropical space vacations

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Looking back over the past week, we've seen some interesting comments about what it would be like to go to other planets and moons. We decided to feature a few of these posts from readers to close out the week.

Rover bound for intriguing crater on Mars

Curiosity, NASA's most advanced rover, is going to search Gale Crater for evidence of life as we know it on Mars. Scientists say they have pinpointed the landing site with greater accuracy than in the past, resulting in a shorter transit to the crater itself. This mission got one reader wondering what it would be like to view Earth from afar.

helenecha: "It must be pretty much interesting to see Earth on Mars. So landing Curiosity to a site on Mars where the rover can see our Earth from Mars whatever makes sense, uh? Good luck to Curiosity! Godspeed to every member of all NASA's rover missions!"

Curiosity follows in the footsteps (or tracks) of the rovers Spirit and Opportunity. All got their names from children's essay contests. Some of our readers conceded they would have used different names if it were up to them.

MrId: "They should be something like 'Conquer,' 'Robotic Death,' or 'Bigfoot.' "

Raymond: "I would have named them all Rover I, Rover II, Rover III, etc., etc. Hey, we keep track of the Super Bowl with Roman Numerals. Why not keep track of these?"

Cedar Rapids: "... the Mars rover, 'Megatron', today arrived at the crater ..."

You may recall that "Spirit" and "Opportunity" were dreamed up by 9-year-old essay writer Sofi Collis of Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2003. Collis was born in Siberia and at one point lived in an orphanage. The rover name Curiosity was the brainchild of Clara Ma of Lenexa, Kansas, in 2009.

If you could name a rover whatever you wanted, what would you call it? Conversely, what would come next in the current series? Please tell us in the comments section.

Some readers have wondered if Mars is the right place to be exploring. Europa, one of Jupiter's moons, was mentioned as a possible place. FULL POST

Filed under: Overheard on CNN.com
Overheard on CNN.com: New shuttle needs space plane 'coolness'
Designed by UK-based engineers Reaction Engines Ltd, the Skylon project is a radical idea for future space travel.
June 8th, 2012
07:20 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: New shuttle needs space plane 'coolness'

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

CNN commenters - clearly energized about the promise of a new, privately developed space shuttle - are buzzing about winged spacecraft versus capsule-based vehicles like Dragon, which SpaceX used for its historic visit to the space station last month.

A commenter called "gregory" points out the Skylon space plane project in the UK. The theory behind space planes is they would be able to take off from a runway, rocket into low orbit, and then fly to a landing on a runway.

Gregory suggests that space planes are preferable because their engines would be designed to "breathe air like a jet at lower speeds" and then "switch to rocket mode in the high atmosphere." CNN reported on Skylon last year and one insider estimated development cost to be around $10 billion. NASA's program to fund private spacecraft development offers only a fraction of that amount - less than $400 million awarded so far.


April 17th, 2012
03:24 PM ET

Capturing Discovery's final flight

Astronauts and CNN iReporters alike describe space shuttle Discovery's last flight as "bittersweet."

When Discovery touched down at Dulles International Airport near Washington on Tuesday, it marked the end of the shuttle program - and the end of an era.

To commemorate the shuttle's final flight, CNN teamed up with NASA and the Smithsonian to collect images from people who spotted the shuttle on its journey, atop a specially modified 747, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It will be transferred into the Smithsonian's collection at a public ceremony on April 19 at the museum's Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia.

Check out the most stunning images of Discovery's journey in the gallery above, and visit our Open Story to see more submissions on a map and submit your own.

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Filed under: iReport • On Earth
Spot the shuttle!
April 16th, 2012
07:16 PM ET

Spot the shuttle!

Tuesday marks a big day for space shuttle Discovery: The shuttle will take the last flight of its career. Discovery is headed from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, just outside Washington, where it will transition from explorer to educator.

To celebrate the shuttle's final flight, we're partnering with NASA and the Smithsonian to track Discovery's journey from Florida to Washington. That's where you come in: If you're in the southeastern U.S., we want you to join other space enthusiasts to try to spot the shuttle during its trip tomorrow and share your photos on CNN iReport!


Filed under: In Space • iReport
Moon, Jupiter and Venus light up the sky
Planets aligned on Saturday to give stargazers a celestial delight. Jupiter is at the top and Venus is on the bottom.
February 27th, 2012
01:58 PM ET

Moon, Jupiter and Venus light up the sky

Venus, Jupiter and the crescent moon came together in a shining triangle on Saturday and Sunday night, putting on a show for stargazers from Virginia to California.

Photographer Scott Shoup went to a lake near his home in Superior, Colorado, hoping to get a shot of the moon and planets reflecting off the water.

In Iron Mountain, Michigan, Jason Asselin heard about the alignment but snow was in the forecast, so he was expecting a cloudy sky when he went outside on Saturday night. He was "surprised and happy to find out that the clouds actually weren't there, and I was able to see Venus, Jupiter and the Moon very clearly." He grabbed his camera and tripod and shared a few shots. (Venus is the one closest to the moon.)

Matt Hartman, a photographer in Los Angeles, California, set up his tripod on the balcony and shot photos every 10 seconds from 7 to 9:30 p.m. to create this time-lapse video of the objects  disappearing from view as clouds move in.

Hartman often shoots celestial happenings and says, "It’s always a real pain to get things in space because you're moving, the things in space are moving, and space is moving."

If you enjoy counting stars and tracing comet tails, we want to hear from you at CNN iReport. All cool space and science stories are welcome!

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Filed under: In Space • iReport • News
Watching 100 meteors in Swindon, England
January 5th, 2012
12:40 PM ET

Watching 100 meteors in Swindon, England

Photographer and stargazer Renata Arpasova clenched her tripod in the gusting winds early Wednesday and was rewarded with the sight of 100 meteors charging across her sky in Swindon, England.

She felt “sheer excitement with every single one of them.”

Arpasova shot 420 back-to-back images of the Quadrantid meteor shower between 3 and 7 a.m. armed with a Canon 5DMKII, tripod, remote release and a fisheye lens to cover as much of the sky as possible.


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Filed under: In Space • iReport
December 5th, 2011
05:57 PM ET

Your thoughts: Search for life on other planets

Editor's note: This post is affiliated with the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Life, as we know it, needs certain conditions to exist. Readers yesterday had some strong opinions about searching for that life elsewhere, after NASA made an announcement about a new planet outside our solar system:


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Filed under: Kepler • News • Overheard on CNN.com
Celestial conjunction in Norway’s night skies
The Moon and Jupiter conjoined in the skies above Norway this week
November 11th, 2011
12:35 PM ET

Celestial conjunction in Norway’s night skies

Norwegian iReporter Hans-Dieter Fleger, 58, is an avid stargazer. He’s bookmarked the websites for NASA, the Space Weather Prediction Center and the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. So, he knew what to look for the night of November 8, when the Moon and Jupiter were scheduled to form a conjunction.

A conjunction is a loose astronomical term used to describe a moment when two celestial bodies are near each other in the sky.

Since astronomy and photography happen to be two of Hans' greatest passions, he was well-armed to capture the rare event. Armed with his camera and a remote, he snapped this picture as the Moon and Jupiter (center-right in the picture above) were within 10 degrees of each other.

And after he took the picture, he discovered an added bonus in one of his shots: A meteorite's tail streaking above the moon as it entered the Earth's atmosphere!

If you enjoy photographing the stars, share your best stargazing moments with iReport.

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Filed under: In Space • iReport
October 28th, 2011
10:48 AM ET

Another look at today's Delta II launch

A Delta II rocket carrying the NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) spacecraft launched this morning from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

NPP is the first earth-observing satellite to measure long-term climate change and daily weather, in effect aiming to measure the overall health of the planet. The satellite continues the observation work done by satellites Terra, Aqua and Aura with better observations, better models and predictions.

Data from NPP will also help lay the groundwork for future National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites.

In addition to the NPP spacecraft, the Delta II rocket also carried six nanosatellites, known as CubeSats. CubeSats are cube-shaped satellites that are 10 cm on a side and weigh 1 kilogram. These CubeSats, which are part of the ELaNa (Educational Launch of Nanosatellite) program, are run by four universities: University of Montana, Auburn University, University of Michigan, and Utah State University.

CNN iReporter Tony Galvan viewed the launch from Goleta, California. Check out his iReport for details on monitoring the CubeSats launched along with NPP via ham radio.

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Filed under: In Space • iReport • News
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