Astronomy and Society

Astronomy might be about the heavens, but it has effects right here on Earth, too. Some of these impacts are on the world scale — such as the meteoroid that detonated over Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013. Others are less blockbuster, such as the growing race to mine asteroids or the successful launch of homemade satellites. And then there are the hoaxes that fill our inboxes from well-meaning friends and the hype over putative “supermoons“.

Here you’ll find the latest news and blogs on the things in astronomy that touch our lives. Whether it be NASA space policy or the facts behind Daylight Saving Time, we’ll keep you up to speed on how you can be involved in astronomy and how astronomy endeavors are affecting you and our society.

NASA's asteroid-retrieval concept

NASA to Snag a Near-Earth Asteroid

Not content to let private companies have all the fun in asteroid exploration and exploitation, NASA managers have proposed a high-flying mission that would capture a small asteroid and dispatch astronauts to study it — all within the next decade.

Meteor trail over Chelyabinsk

Info on Russian Meteor Pours In

The fireball that exploded over Russia on February 15th left more than a million square feet of damaged windows, bringing home how fragile life on Earth can be. Here's what S&T's staff has managed to piece together about what happened.

Cheney in Times Square

AMA Addresses Light Pollution

The American Medical Association has released a report detailing several possible health concerns related to nighttime light exposure. But some lighting researchers worry the conclusions are more alarmist than is warranted.

Sentinel spacecraft in orbit

B612 Debuts Its Asteroid-Seeking Sentinel

Astronomers warn that it's not a question of "if" Earth will be hit by an asteroid, but "when." If a private group of space veterans has its way, a Sun-orbiting spacecraft will find threatening objects decades before they can strike us.

AAVSO survey

All-Sky Survey Sees Millions of Stars

A collaboration between professional and amateur astronomers is producing a careful map of stellar brightnesses and colors across the entire night sky. The survey should fill a hole that sometimes hampers quick, accurate measurements of events such as supernovae.

Millennial Calendar Found in Mayan Ruins

Never mind what the doomsayers tell you: Remarkable paintings in a room amid Guatemalan ruins prove that the ancient Maya knew more about celestial cycles than we thought — and that they didn't predict the world's end in December 2012.

Great Heights Reached with Gaffer Tape

Spectacular photos of Earth’s curvature from the atmosphere are just one balloon and camera click away. Able to reach an altitude of more than 20 miles, so-called space balloons are an inexpensive hobby for those with an eye for the sky.